Flood risk informational open house scheduled in Omer

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ARENAC COUNTY — The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will be holding an open house at Omer City Hall July 10 to allow county residents the chance to review preliminary flood maps for the county.

According to a press release put out by FEMA, the maps are updated from the previously existing ones, showing new and changed floodplains in the county. While they are preliminary maps, County Commissioner Jeff Trombley said during the Omer council meeting June 25 that anyone who mortgages a property in a floodplain would be required to get flood insurance.

Property owners would not necessarily need to get flood insurance, he said, but a mortgage lender can force the issue.

Drain Commissioner Larry Davis said that while the maps have not changed a great deal for Arenac County, they still nevertheless have changed, and residents should attend the meeting to find out if their property has been impacted. Davis criticized the flood insurance rates, believing they would be too much for the flood risk historically seen in the area.

He said for people living along the Mississippi River, flood insurance makes sense, but felt rates should be much lower for houses in Arenac County, which still faces very low Great Lake water levels.

Cale Wiltse, insurance agent with Walker Agency, said flood insurance rates are based on several factors unique to each house — the age of the house, the location, the base flood elevation, the elevation of the bottom floor or crawlspace, and which flood zone it falls into.

Wiltse said there is no real baseline premium for the insurance, it does tend to be more expensive than homeowner insurance itself.

“For example, we have a guy with two seasonal homes next to each other. One was built before the flood map, and the other after the map,” Wiltse said. “He’s paying $1,100 (in flood insurance) on the one built before, and $300 on the one after, as it was built above the base elevation.”

Wiltse said that while FEMA generally recommends everybody get flood insurance, the rates are costly enough that he generally does not suggest it to people unless they live in a flood-prone area. He said a change in flood maps and an increase in rates could have a detrimental impact on home sales in the area, as someone looking to buy a house may be scared off if they have to pay more than $1,000 in flood insurance.

He suggested visiting floodsmart.gov for additional information about flood insurance.

Davis said people could also apply for a letter of map revision to get their house removed from a flood zone if it meets certain elevation criteria.

DEQ District Flood Plain Engineer Joy Brooks said there would be a meeting for officials prior to the open house. If people have comments or would like to see corrections made to the map, the open house is the best time to do it as the map will not be finalized until after that point.

“FEMA will talk about the ways to comment, appeal or make corrections during the officials’ meeting and individually during the open house,” she said. “It’s much easier for people to have a look now and comment now before the maps become final.”

Brooks said she and another DEQ representative, Les Thomas, would be attending the meeting.

The open house will include representatives of state and federal agencies that will be able to talk about flood risk, development regulations, and the mapping process. The open house runs from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. For more information, call Emily Whitehead at 513-842-8200.

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