FEMA meeting may yield new maps
Sep 11, 2013 | 2679 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Sept. 18 meeting at Lake Barkley State Resort Park near Cadiz could eventually yield relief for Lyon residents wrongly mapped into a flood zone.

Cary Johnson, cooperating technical partners program manager for the Kentucky Division of Water, said the meeting is informational for stakeholders in the Lower Cumberland River Watershed.

The meeting, at 10 a.m., is the first-step in assessing the needs not only of Lyon County but also of every community in the watershed, Johnson said. He estimated the assessment and its outcome will take three to five years depending on the needs. The outcome will be based on this and other meetings with the stakeholders, he added.

Johnson voiced a glimmer of hope for high-ground dwellers inaccurately mapped into “a special flood hazard” zone. He said the assessment is designed to reveal needs for additional mapping throughout the watershed.

“Sometimes (dealing with) the needs can be expedited,” he said. “We will put the results (of the assessment) together to get the needs of the communities and identify actions that will reduce (flood) risk.”

Lyon County’s needs have been well documented, Johnson said, as have needs in Hopkinsville and Livingston County.

However, Johnson emphasized that the Cadiz meeting is not to deal with a “specific need in a specific area.”

Even so, he said he has spoken with both Judge-Executive Wade White and Emergency Manager Bob Langhi, and will meet with them to discuss Lyon County’s problem.

The Cumberland River watershed covers a wide region in both Kentucky and Tennessee. Besides elected county, city and state officials, Johnson said a Federal Emergency Management Agency’s representative from Region 4 in Atlanta will attend as will a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Since Barkley Dam was built in the late 1950s and early 60s, the Corps has been the flood plain authority. It was only after Lyon County became a member of the National Flood Insurance Program two years ago, that Lake Barkley dwellers encountered an issue with FEMA.

FEMA, in partnership with the Division of Water, wrongly mapped at least 77 residents living on or near the lake into a flood zone. As a result, their mortgage lenders demanded the homeowners either buy flood insurance or prove their property is not flood prone. And the only proof FEMA accepts is a property survey that costs a minimum of $600. Flood insurance costs up to $4,000 a year.

Five months ago, Johnson told the Herald Ledger that FEMA provided funds for the mapping, and the Division of Water hired AMEC Earth & Environmental of Nashville, Tenn. to do the work. Both Johnson and a FEMA spokeswoman said the contractor “used the best data available” though U.S. Geological Survey data were used. And Johnson conceded USGS data are “based on 10-foot intervals.”

Ten-foot intervals mean a FEMA map of homeowner’s property could be inaccurate by as much as 10 feet.

“There are no more precise data in Lyon County,” Johnson said during the late March interview. At the same time, he conceded the FEMA maps “are not survey quality.”

“That’s why a survey is used for a letter of map amendment,” he said. He added that the division is always concerned about inaccuracies, and indicated the Risk MAP Discovery project might update the maps.

A FEMA brochure, “Risk MAP Discovery — Capturing a More Complete Picture of Your Watershed,” lists the program’s goal as:

“To work closely with communities to better understand local flood risk, mitigation efforts, and other topics and spark watershed-wide discussions about resilience to flooding. The Discovery process of FEMA’s Risk Map program helps communities identify areas at risk for flooding and solutions for reducing that risk.”

A letter from FEMA to community leaders, Pennyrile Area Development planners, geographic information system specialists, emergency managers, “and others with a vested interest,” list discussion topics at the Cadiz meeting as:

n Flood risk data “we have gathered to date.”

n Community’s flooding history.

n Community’s flood risk concerns.

n Mitigation plan and potential flood reducing activities.

n Other daily operations that impact flood risk (cleaning drainage ditches, culverts).
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