Butte County Commissioners met with Matt Buddie of FEMA's Denver Region VIII office to discuss the county's flood maps and whether the county's flood ordinances will allow continuing federal flood insurance coverage.

Buddie ended what he called a "community assistance visit" behind closed doors with commissioners, county State's Attorney Heather Plunkett and county Emergency Management Director Martha Wierzbicki, but no official action was taken.

Buddie told commissioners that FEMA requirements for the county ordinance must be enforced in order for federal flood insurance to be issued to residential and other building landowners.

Towns in the county, such as Belle Fourche, have their own flood maps and ordinances.

Butte County currently has 25 federal flood insurance policies in force for a total of $2.9 million.

He added that federally subsidized flood insurance rates for older buildings that fall within new flood plain maps will be phased out.

"Some of those will be phased into actuarial rates," he said.

Of the 25 insured properties, he said, "I think 100 percent need it."

He added that 19 are in the new flood plain maps or in high risk areas. The maps were created after the county filed several years of flood disaster declarations.

FEMA is providing flood plain information in digital format to see how many structures are in the flood plain by overlaying it with the local 911 map information.

Wierzbicki said the overlay will help county officials evacuate people in the flood plain in case of probable flooding.

Buddie said the Butte County flood plain map was before his time at the Denver office, but that it was made in collaboration with city, county and FEMA officials.

He added that past flooding history is "just one piece of the puzzle."

Commissioner Kim Kling and Auditor Elaine Jensen asked whether there is a way to have buildings removed from the high risk listing because they are at elevations above flood levels.

Kling said he was told by an engineer that he would have to not only have a certified elevation document, but that it would cost another $3,000 to $5,000 to have a structure removed from a high risk listing.

Buddie said that wasn't necessarily accurate.

"What we need is an elevation certificate," he said. "You need to apply for a LOMA (Letter of Map Amendment.)"

That request is handled without cost, he said.

"I would definitely go that route first because there is no fee," he said. "That is the workaround for areas that do not have the detailed study."

Buddie emphasized that flood insurance is essential for most homeowners.

He said he recently returned from New Jersey where many homeowners had dropped their flood insurance when their mortgages were paid. Then they were hit by hurricane flood surges.

"Your homeowner insurance does nothing for flood," he said. "Flood is the number one disaster."

After Buddie's presentation, the commission went into executive session with him and the other county officials.

When Buddie left, the commission remained in executive session for personnel matters.

After the executive session closed, commissioners agreed to a resolution to give themselves full county employee health insurance benefits. According to Jensen, those benefits had been cut to a third-time employee rate in the county's 2013 budget approved last fall.


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