FEMA’s map of Elk Point

FEMA’s map of Elk Point shows both the 100-year flood plain (blue) and the 500-year (orange).

The National Flood Insurance Program updated its maps Jan. 15 to match the flood plain maps released by FEMA last year. That means some homeowners in the southern part of Union County are receiving unanticipated letters. Homeowners who live in the areas identified by FEMA as prone to flooding are being told by their lenders that they have to purchase flood insurance. Others, who live in areas outside Elk Point, Jefferson and North Sioux City, are being told by insurers that they’re not eligible for flood insurance because Union County had not formally opted in to the flood insurance program.

Elk Point approved its Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance Aug. 24; that makes the city part of the national flood insurance program. That allows city residents to purchase flood insurance if they choose to do so. Jefferson voted not to join, since the new maps show no city properties are in the flood plain.

However, Union County did not pass its ordinance until Feb. 9 of this year, so a number of rural residents received letters in January informing them that their flood insurance could not be renewed because their properties had been suspended from the National Flood Insurance Program and coverage was no longer available. The county ordinance will change that. Union County Planning and Zoning Director Dennis Henze said the ordiance would take effect March 3.

Elk Point City Administrator Derek Tuttle said there is a lot of confusion about how this situation came about. He said the last flood plain study for Union County was in 2001.

“This mapping was mainly completed with riverine flooding and some localized flooding,” Tuttle said. “With the new technology that has been developed over the last two decades, FEMA has been able to move from riverine flooding to determining localized flooding. In doing this, they can detail the mapping down to a smaller area than before. The flooding events that they model are evaluated for the 100-year (one percent chance) and 500-year (0.02 percent) storms.”

He said any mortgaged properties in the 100-year flood zone will most likely need to purchase flood insurance to satisfy their lender. A number of local agencies offer the insurance. Kyle Buum of Jensen Insurance Agency in Elk Point explained how it would work.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.