Should you elevate your home?
Homeowners in flood-prone areas in the Valley face a difficult decision to elevate or not to elevate.
Do you take Douglas County up on its offer to raise your home above flood level, or do you take your chances and hope the Carson River never floods again?
Tuesday evening, representatives of the Douglas County Emergency Management department, Dick Mirgon and Pam Jenkins, met with homeowners who have been considering elevating their homes. Bert Prescott, Nevada state hazard mitigation officer and a member of the Governor’s Flood Recovery Task Force, was also present to answer questions about elevation projects in progress across the state.
The road to Tuesday’s meeting has been long and muddy one, both for neighborhood residents and county officials.
Pam Jenkins, Douglas County emergency management assistant, is the manager for the elevation project.
“Initially, we were planning on doing it with one architect and one contractor, and we thought that it would be cheaper and simpler to do it that way,” she said.
However, after meeting with homeowners last spring, in addition to negotiating with potential experts such as contractors, engineers and architects, Jenkins said the project began to look less and less feasible as initially envisioned.
“Basically, the prices weren’t where they needed to be,” she said. “Also, some residents didn’t like the idea of us doing it all – they said it was too much ‘Big Brother.’ Of course, there were those who were fine with it, but in the end it, was the money that made us re-think the project.”
Mirgon and Jenkins traveled to Placer County, Calif. to look at an ongoing elevation project there.
“We found that they are working on the flood of 1995 just now, so we really aren’t that far behind schedule,” Jenkins said. “Our money is still there.”
In an effort to keep the Douglas County project moving forward, particularly for those homeowners who were enthusiastic from the start, Jenkins and Mirgon came up with “Plan B,” where each homeowner selects their own contractors and submits the bills to the county.
Funding for the elevation project comes largely from FEMA in the form of a 75 percent allotment, Mirgon said. Initially, it looked like either the homeowners or the county would have to come up with the 25 percent additional funds, but Mirgon said his department was able to locate state match funds in the form of a community development block grant (CDBG) to cover the 25 percent.
Currently, one home in Willowbend near Genoa and 13 homes in the lower Ranchos are eligible for the elevation project. Homes will be raised from four to six feet, in order to survive a major flood.
The map of the Carson Valley flood plain is based on FEMA’s federal insurance rate maps of 100- or 500-year flood plains. Each of the eligible homes is located in a flood plain.
According to statistics from FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, flooding causes more property damage in the United States than any other natural disaster. Every year, billions of dollars are spent on flood-caused damages, either by government agencies or private owners.
The elevation project funds will vary according to the type of home being elevated. For an all-wood floor, $20 per square foot will be paid, for a slab floor, $25 per square foot and $22.50 for a combination floor. This means that for a 2,000 square-foot house, elevating it could cost from $40,000 to $50,000. All costs must meet a cost benefit analysis by FEMA.
Laurie Therres of Fairview Drive, who bought her house in 1996, 1-1/2 years before the flood, said she decided to go with the projectfrom the start.
“Before the county even started talking about doing the project, I had already gotten three bids to do it myself,” she said.
Therres, who has four teen-age boys from ages 15 to 19 living with her, said she wanted to elevate her home because she simply doesn’t want to move.
“It took me three solid days of looking to find this house and I loved it right from the start,” she said. “I love this neighborhood and I love this house,” she said. “I don’t want to move, but I don’t want to get wet again.”
Many homeowners are undecided about whether they’ll go through with the project. Fairview Road resident Jay Wayt said he and his wife Lila are still trying to decide.
“Everybody was quite interested right after the flood, but they let it go for a year and it’s been a mess,” Wayt said. Still, the prospect of going through another flood is not attractive to the retired couple.
For other homeowners, the slow pace of the elevation project forced them to go ahead with their own mitigations.
“We were very enthusiastic about it in the beginning, but we went ahead and had our home repaired, and now it wouldn’t make sense to tear it up again,” said Joan Brinton, of Fifth Green Court.
Jenkins said her department is simply trying to do what they can for residents.
“It’s not a solution, but at least these homes will be safer,” she said. “We just want the project to look good for each of them when it’s done.”
While homeowners may have mixed feelings about elevating their homes, they agree the river needs to be fixed.
“I just wish they’d leave the houses alone and fix the river,” Wayt said. “It seems like the problem is being approached backwards. If Los Angeles can build aqueducts clear across the state and build the LA River, surely they can do something with a five-mile stretch of river here.
“It just seems that all the money is being poured somewhere else when the real problem is the river banks.”