New maps will likely remove from a flood zone nearly 80 Lake Barkley homes inaccurately mapped in by a federal agency. The final maps are at least a year away, but preliminary data could be made available late this fall.
That was the word Tuesday from Carey Johnson, program manager of a new Lower Cumberland River Watershed Risk Study.
Johnson and representatives from Stantec, a Lexington contractor conducting the study, were in Eddyville to update Judge-Executive Wade White on the study’s progress.
“I am very happy with where we have now moved in the process of getting new maps for the people of Lyon County,” White said following the meeting. “I still remember when I was invited by Sen. (Mitch) McConnell to use his Washington, D.C. office to meet with four top officials of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to plead my case for new maps. They clearly told me they would not draw new maps for Lyon County in the next 10 years.”
White didn’t accept FEMA’s response and kept pushing for new maps. Last September, his efforts bore fruit when the state Division of Water and FEMA began the new Lower Cumberland River Watershed study.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Johnson and his team, brought maps showing newly hand-delineated contours around Lake Barkley. However, he brought even better news saying the state has mapped Lyon County using LIDAR, which is the best mapping tool available.
LIDAR stands for light detection and ranging; it is a remote sensing method for examining the Earth’s surface.
“I think our persistence has paid off,” White said Tuesday. “Not only are we now getting new maps, but we are also getting the best available. The Kentucky Division of Water will have LIDAR data maps in October, which are accurate within 6 inches. Once we get those maps we will have the truly best data out there, and I fully expect to see those people wrongly mapped to come out of the flood plain.
“This is something my office has been working on for well over a year and a half, and I consider this very good news for Lyon County,” White said. “I appreciate Carey Johnson of the Kentucky Division of Water, and how he has worked with us to get to this point. We are definitely over the hump toward correcting the FEMA maps that have caused trouble for many of our citizens. It has slowed their ability to buy and sell property and to get proper loans in a timely manner. That trouble should soon end. I’m so happy to announce to the people that Lyon County has accomplished our goal of pushing FEMA to redraw their incorrect flood plain maps,” the judge added.
The issue stems from FEMA inaccurately mapping at least 77 high-ground residents into a flood zone two years ago. After Lyon County joined the Federal Flood Insurance Program, mortgage holders demanded the homeowners either buy costly flood insurance or prove they were not in a flood zone. Flood insurance premiums run as high as $4,000 a year, and to prove they are not in a flood zone, homeowners must have their property surveyed at a cost of at least $600.
Johnson estimated the LIDAR data will be available in mid-October. It will likely be the end of November or early December before preliminary maps are available. Then there will be a 30-day review period, after which the data will be published in the Federal Register (there could be delays in publication). Ninety days after publication, a letter of final determination will be issued, and at that point the county can pass its ordinance.
Johnson said the entire process usually takes a year to 15 months. Meanwhile however, Johnson promised to write a letter that homeowners may present to their banks to show they are not in a flood plain. Banks are not obligated to accept the letter, but it might help some homeowners. Johnson said he would write the letter on behalf of the Division of Water or ask FEMA to sign off on it, which ever White prefers.