About 400 Rapid City properties will soon be moved into the floodplain, which means a number of residents will likely have to buy flood insurance for the first time, the city engineer said Monday.

At the same time, another 400 property owners will be removed from the floodplain on June 3 when the newly drawn floodplain maps issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) take effect.

The updated maps more accurately record what properties are threatened by flooding and what properties are not, said Dale Tech, the city engineer.

"The new maps are better than the old maps. The old maps weren't good at all, and so some people who weren't at risk for flooding were included and some who were at risk weren't," he said.

Tech will inform the Public Works Committee about the new maps at its regular meeting, which starts at 12:30 p.m. today at the city administration building at 300 Sixth St.

The committee will consider adopting the maps, along with a slew of rules FEMA is requiring cities across the country to adopt if they wish to remain in the National Flood Insurance Program.

That program allows property owners to buy flood insurance from the federal government at a discounted rate. Property owners with a federally backed mortgage must get flood insurance and many other lenders also require it. People who own their property outright are not required to purchase flood insurance.

Because of how Rapid City manages the floodplain, property owners here get their rate discounted by 10 percent. That will soon increase to 15 percent, Tech said.

If city hall doesn't adopt the new rules or maps, city residents won't be able to get federal flood insurance at all, Tech said.

The new rules don't differ too much from the old ones, though. One of the main differences is how many improvements property owners can make to their floodplain properties, Tech said.

Previously, property owners could make only a certain amount of improvements based on the original value of the structure, which for many of the houses in Rapid City's floodplain dates back to the 1970s when the houses were built. The new rules say property owners can make improvements of up to 50 percent of the market value of the home.

"That gives people more flexibility as to what they can do now," Tech said.

Contact Aaron Orlowski at 484-7069 or aaron.orlowski@rapidcityjournal.com

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