By Michael Howell
As part of a national effort to modernize floodplain maps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released revised preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Ravalli County on May 1, 2012. According to Ravalli County Planning Department Administrator Terry Nelson, over 1,700 letters were sent out to landowners located in or within 300 feet of the 100-year floodplain as described in the new maps.
In the letter landowners were urged to review both the existing and preliminary floodplain maps to gain an understanding of how, if at all, the revisions may affect them. There have been changes to the main stem of the Bitterroot River. Advanced topographic data was collected (LiDAR) which has resulted in more accurate mapping of the current flood elevations.
Nelson said that one of the most significant changes in the proposed map is the addition of the Three Mile and Eight Mile drainages which now have new flood elevations on the proposed maps.
The proposed new floodplain maps can be viewed on the internet at http://www.bakeraecom.com/index.php/montana/ravalli/ or in the Ravalli County Planning Office at 215 S. 4th Street, Suite F, Hamilton. A public meeting to view the new maps and discuss how and why the new maps were developed is scheduled for Thursday, June 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bedford Building, located at 223 S. 2nd Street, Hamilton.
There is a 90-day appeal period where landowners who are affected by changes in the floodplain maps can submit appeals or comments regarding the revised maps. The appeal period has not yet begun in Ravalli County, but it will begin in the next few weeks or months.
“Now is the time to review the information on your property and be sure it is accurate, so that when the appeal period does open, you are ready to submit information if necessary,” said Nelson.
All appeals or comments must be submitted to the Ravalli County Planning Office at 215 S. 4th Street, Suite F, Hamilton, MT 59840 before the end of the 90-day appeal period. It is important to note that the County does not perform a detailed review of comments or appeals, but rather makes note of them and then forwards this information on to FEMA for its review and decision.
The planning department letter notes that, according to federal laws, if you have a federally-backed mortgage and your property is located in the 100-year floodplain, your lender is supposed to require you to obtain flood insurance. If your property is located in the 100-year floodplain for the first time or if your property has changed flood zones on the floodplain maps from a lower-risk zone to a higher-risk flood zone, then you have the opportunity to capture some savings on your flood insurance premium if you purchase flood insurance before the preliminary maps become “effective.” The “effective” date for the new floodplain maps is projected to be sometime after July 2013.
If your property is in the floodplain, you are advised to check with the Ravalli County Planning Office or the City Office, if in a town site, prior to undertaking development projects on your property to determine whether or not a floodplain permit is required. Floodplain permits are required for construction, excavation, grading, placement of fill, bank stabilization, and other similar projects within the floodplain.
Additional Floodplain and Flood Insurance Resources:
The following resources are available for you to obtain additional information regarding how this change affects your property and how or why the new maps were developed.
• Ravalli County: http://rc.mt.gov/planning/
• Montana DNRC Floodplain Program: www.mtfloodplain.mt.gov
• Montana Map Modernization Program: www.montanadfirm.com • FEMA mapping website: www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/fhm
• National Flood Insurance Program: www.floodsmart.gov
• FEMA Flood Insurance questions: Marijo Brady, firstname.lastname@example.org, 303-235-4835
• Ravalli County: Ravalli County Floodplain Manager , email@example.com, (406) 375-6530
Town of Stevensville: 406-777-5271
Town of Pinesdale: 406-961-8300
Town of Hamilton: 406-363-2101
Town of Darby: 406-821-3753
• Montana DNRC : Mary Gibson, State of Montana Flood Risk Map Program Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org; (406) 444-6656 ; Traci Sears, State of Montana National Flood Insurance Program Coordinator, email@example.com, (406) 444-6654 .