County chips in toward appeal of Hollandale area flood maps

Published 9:39 am Wednesday, October 2, 2013

An appeal over new Federal Emergency Management Agency 100-year-flood maps in Hollandale is moving forward after the Freeborn County commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved spending $4,000 toward the fight.

Hollandale and the Turtle Creek Watershed District also are paying $4,000 each to hire Barr Engineering firm to put a report together to submit to FEMA.

The watershed district is representing property owners in an appeal of proposed FEMA maps.

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Officials with the city and watershed district believe the maps, which add about 11,800 acres to the designated floodplain of Turtle Creek, are wrong by as much as three feet. If the maps become official, the value of half of the homes and businesses in Hollandale would deflate, along with many in the countryside. Property owners would be required to purchase flood insurance. Landowners would not be able to get building permits and, in rural areas, they could not install wells and septic tanks.

“Everybody’s going to lose on this if it goes through the way it’s set right now,” said Hollandale Mayor Ted Radke.

The commissioners took up the request to support the appeal at their Sept. 17 meeting but declined to fund it. The commissioners at that meeting were voting on whether to pay the entire $12,000, and some of the commissioners said they were worried about setting a precedence.

Radke, who wasn’t at the first meeting, said he thinks there was a miscommunication that the county was expected to pay for the entire amount of the appeal.

Hollandale resident Dave Vanderploeg said he thinks it is important that the city, the watershed district and the county join together to support the appeal, noting the effect it could have on property tax values and livelihoods.

“FEMA is forcing a significant hardship on every single family that’s going to have to buy this insurance,” Vanderploeg said.

Justin Hanson, administrator of the Turtle Creek Watershed District, said there are discrepancies between the FEMA maps and the modeling that the watershed district has completed. He said Barr Engineering has led other entities on appeals cases in the past.

“In this case it was a little overwhelming the amount of people who were involved in it,” Hanson said. “That’s why our groups had to stand up and organize this effort.”

FEMA creates flood maps for the purposes of emergency management and determining the need for insurance. A methodology is given to a contractor for making the maps. The existing Freeborn County flood maps are dated 1982.

The watershed district has until Oct. 7 to submit to FEMA the models from Barr Engineering.