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Minden upset with FEMA

Sheila Gardner

Residents of Minden’s Mackland subdivision don’t think bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. know beans about the Carson River’s flood plain.

At their urging, the Minden Town Board has agreed to spend up to $20,000 to challenge the recent Federal Emergency Management Administration redesignation of Mackland to the mapped flood zone.

Designation of the area as a flood zone earlier this summer added hundreds of dollars to some homeowners’ insurance premiums – including town board members Bob Hadfield and Ross Chichester, who refrained from voting in last week’s decision to challenge the new flood maps.

“We were all here during last January’s flood,” said Mackland resident Tom Henie, one of about 30 people who attended the Nov. 5 Minden Town Board meeting.

“We listened to hourly, blow-by-blow accounts of the flooding and felt fairly secure in our homes. We were quite surprised when this news came out. We felt somebody in FEMA made a quick and dirty assessment that the area might flood.”

The Mackland area did not flood.

Henie said the designation as a flood plain means an additional financial burden to homeowners and places a question mark on residents’ property values.

“Some of these people are on fixed incomes,” Henie said. “We’d like the ability to make an individual choice whether to buy flood insurance. We’re very glad you’re pursuing this.”

Rancher Renee Mack criticized FEMA’s notification process that the maps were changing.

“I don’t quite understand this,” Mack said. “Every time they (FEMA) show up in town with their crayons, it’s only in the legal ad section of The Record-Courier. I don’t think the normal homeowner reads the legal section to see if they’ve been done in.”

Town engineer Bruce Scott advised the board that the new maps, in effect since June, were based on work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and utilized 1977 topography which was at a 5-foot contour level.

Detailed technical information, which is necessary to eliminate or substantially remove the flood zone from the Mackland area, will require new aerial topography for the area bound by Highway 88, the Carson River, Highway 395 and the east side of the Mackland subdivision.

The area would be mapped at a contour interval of 1 foot, Scott said.

If the challenge is successful, town board members wanted to know if they would be immune from future flood map designations.

“Can they come back again?” asked town board chairman Bruce Jacobsen.

“We’ve been in an out of the flood plain since I’ve been on the board,” said Chichester. “There’s nothing to say two years from now they won’t use the 1977 data and we’ll have to do this all over again.”

Scott said revised technical data was the best defense.

Douglas County is part of the National Flood Insurance Program. Residents who live in a flood plain and owe money on their homes are obligated to get flood insurance.