New floodplain designations made by the state and federal government in Morgan County may have a significant effect on many residents as they can drop flood insurance and potentially build new homes for less money. The new floodplain maps are currently available at the county offices and will be on display at a public open house May 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the county building.
“It will have some interesting effects on the county,” said County Planning Director Bill Cobabe. “This has insurance and development ramifications.”
FEMA and state representatives have been studying portions of Morgan for over a year using technology updated since the last study conducted almost 30 years ago. The result is a “dramatic” reduction of land previously found in the floodplain that no longer will be. Cobabe said in the East Canyon area, the reduction is as much as 70 percent.
He said approximately 150 county homeowners living in floodplain areas now will find they are no longer in the floodplain due to the new study results. That means they can ditch their flood insurance.
While many may be happy to reduce their home insurance premiums, Cobabe warned that residents should always be prepared for flooding. “We live in an area that is prone to periodic flooding,” Cobabe said. “People should always be prepared.”
If owners want to build a home on land that is in the designated floodplain, they have to invest significant money to raise the structure above the floodplain. Now that FEMA has removed the floodplain from many areas, the costs to build in those areas may significantly decrease as well, Cobabe said.
“I have talked to a few residents about the new floodplain maps,” Cobabe said. “Most are pleased with the changes.”
But it can swing the other way, as well. The change also means that about 20 homes not previously in the floodplain now will be. Some of those are in city limits.
“If you have questions about if this affects you, come see me,” Cobabe said.
To see the floodplain as designated in 1987, visit the county’s website. To see the new proposed floodplain that is set to take effect in one year, visit www.fema.gov/preliminaryfloodhazarddata/. Changes were made due to better and more accurate technology such as aerial fly-overs that determine elevations and topography, Cobabe said.
Because of the time and expense involved in floodplain research, Cobabe said a new study is probably not expected for decades. While the public can now view the first blush of FEMA’s new floodplain maps and offer opinions to FEMA, state and county officials, the new maps likely won’t change between now and a year from now, when the new maps will officially take effect.
“The review period provides community officials and citizens in the affected communities with an opportunity to identify changes or corrections to non-technical information, such as corporate limits, road names and stream names,” according to a FEMA letter sent to county officials.
The study focused on areas of the county that are poised for potential development such as Mountain Green, Morgan City, Round Valley, Richville and Porterville, according to recommendations from Cobabe, the former county emergency services director, city officials, and the county contracted engineer.