Flood plain map changes concern city, property owners - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Flood plain map changes concern city, property owners


FEMA is outlining new flood zone maps, which updates the areas considered to be in the 100-year flood plain.  Parts of those new maps are baffling both property owners and city leaders.

Some areas of Waterloo sitting along the Cedar River will likely always be in the hundred year flood plain.  But now, FEMA's labeling other parts of town as prone to flooding.  It's the result of a multi-year project to update the city's flood maps, which haven't been changed since the 1980s.

"They've basically taken all the information they have on previous maps, topography, drainage systems, aerial photographs for land use and all that.  So what they did is they came back and recalculated all the maps and sent them to us for our review," said Noel Anderson with Waterloo's planning and zoning department.

But the results of the new maps aren't quite what Waterloo city leaders expected.  That's because more parts of town were added to the hundred year flood zone than were taken out of it.  What might be most baffling, is how a section of town along Dry Creek on the west side ended up in the new flood plain.  In that location, there's an underground tunnel that helps to prevent flooding.

What's so frustrating for home and business owners in the new flood insurance zone, like along West 5th Street, is even when the flood waters reached their height in the 2008 floods, this part of town stayed dry.

What's concerning is that property owners in the hundred year flood plain could soon be required to purchase flood insurance, which can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars.  Labeling a property as floodable could make it tough to sell in the future.

"It's going to affect property values and it'll definitely have a negative affect on our values here," said Marty Stoakes, who owns a business and rental homes in new flood zone.

So the city is actively fighting some of the flood zone changes.  But it's a process that won't be easy.  Studies will have to prove whether or not an area could be susceptible to flooding if the Cedar River or any number of smaller streams and creeks get out of their banks.

The new FEMA flood maps are set to take effect July 18.  Results from studies the city of Waterloo performs won't be available by then.  So any changes will have to me made after the flood maps become official.          

Additional Notes:

FEMA is actively creating new flood insurance rate maps for the entire state of Iowa, in part as a result of the 2008 floods.

Even if the city of Waterloo is still contesting changes to the flood maps in July, the city will have to pass a new flood ordinance adopting the maps in order to continue participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.  That program is essential in providing relief funding should another flood strike the city.

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