by Sheila Gardner

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November 15, 2012
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FEMA flood map relief may be two years away

It may be two years before Federal Emergency Management Agency officials correct mapping errors that resulted in higher flood insurance rates for Douglas County homeowners.

County Manager Steve Mokrohisky said county officials were unhappy with the latest FEMA response to errors the federal government made in the flood maps.

"The preliminary discussions indicate that FEMA is willing to work with the county on remapping the areas in question, but FEMA's proposed process to date could take nearly two years for just one area," he said.

"A two-year timeline is about two years too long and completely unacceptable to our community, unless our residents are provided immediate relief from ongoing and unnecessary flood insurance."

Mokrohisky made the comments during Wednesday's monthly question-and-answer forum on The Record-Courier's daily Running Commentary.

"We will not rest until FEMA attempts to be responsive to the needs of our community," he said.

The county has been fighting with FEMA for four years over disputed data collected by the agency which placed homeowners in the flood plain.

As a result of that designation, homeowners must purchase flood insurance for approximately 1,000 homes and structures in the flood plain.

The flood insurance can add $800-$900 to homeowners' premiums.

Douglas County appealed the base flood elevations and base flood depths proposed by FEMA for multiple flooding sources as shown on the preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map of April 4, 2008.

"We have been attempting to work with FEMA officials over the past several months to move forward on a reasonable path to resolve the flawed flood maps that FEMA put in place in 2010," he said.

After four years of wrangling estimated to cost taxpayers $500,000, officials were notified in July that Douglas County prevailed in a ruling from a scientific resolution panel.

"We believe the data is on our side, which is confirmed by the independent scientific resolution panel discussion," Mokrohisky said.

He expects a final determination within two weeks.

"We expected a formal response from the FEMA associate administrator, David Miller, by last week, but due to hurricane Sandy, the response has been delayed," Mokrohisky said Wednesday.

The county is proposing that FEMA return to the 1999 flood maps until the areas in question can be remapped.

"That would provide immediate relief to residents and allow them to not pay flood insurance," he said Thursday.

The county is seeking reimbursement for residents impacted by the new maps.

He said the National Flood Insurance Program is a mechanism for reimbursement, but not until new maps are in place.

"Residents need to continue to pay flood insurance to be grandfathered in for the rates they have. For many residents, they are required to pay through their mortgage companies until the new maps are approved by FEMA," he said.

Mokrohisky praised the efforts of Nevada's congressional delegation in trying to resolve the dispute.

"Sens. (Harry) Reid and (Dean) Heller and Rep. (Mark) Amodei have been outstanding to work with and been supportive," he said. "The senators sent letters to FEMA, and Rep. Amodei's staff met with FEMA officials earlier this week. We believe our congressional delegation is being very responsive.

"Our desire has been to work collaboratively with FEMA. If we're not successful, the board (commissioners) will need to make a decision whether or not to continue to pursue a legal recourse," he said.

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The Record Courier Updated Nov 15, 2012 07:56PM Published Nov 15, 2012 07:53PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.