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FEMA map appeal benefits our community

One of the lasting effects of the Souris River flood of 2011 is the potential of costly flood insurance premiums for residents living in the floodplain. A recent decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency should give those residents another three years before any significant insurance rate changes will become effective.

That’s obviously welcome news for members of our community. The longer we can delay flood insurance premium increases the better. In addition, the extended time before new flood maps become effective allows more work to be completed on the Mouse River Enhanced Flood Protection project, which should help slow any increases in insurance premiums in the future. FEMA’s decision to review its own findings is proof that an appeal submitted by the City was well-founded and warranted.

Even though any new maps won’t become effective for as long as three years, City Engineer Lance Meyer, who is also the City’s floodplain manager, still recommends that residents discuss with their insurance agent whether or not they should carry some form of flood insurance.

A little background on how we got to this point. Following the 2011 flood, FEMA informed the City that it would be creating new floodplain maps, which would affect how many properties would be included in the revised regulatory floodplain, and consequently, how many residents would need to purchase flood insurance if they have a federally backed mortgage. The City received updated preliminary maps in June 2017, and in December 2019, FEMA released maps scheduled to become effective in the fall of 2020. That’s when the City submitted an appeal that identified deficiencies with FEMA’s findings.

In the appeal, we argued that FEMA’s findings did not consider the full storage capacity purchased by the United States in Rafferty and Grant Devine reservoirs in Canada, and therefore arbitrarily limited the amount of flood storage available in Lake Darling. Because of that, the City argued, FEMA overestimated the flood discharge used to determine the regulatory floodplain.

Meyer pointed out at the Nov. 1 City Council meeting that FEMA hasn’t officially denied or accepted our appeal, but essentially said that it would incorporate our data into new flood maps.

“So effectively, what that means is FEMA is starting this process over, revising these maps – the hydraulics and hydrology that goes into them – and will submit draft maps back to us, probably sometime in the summer of 2023,” Meyer explained to Council members.

The City will have the option to appeal the new draft maps, but even without further appeal, the earliest the maps would become effective is the fall of 2024.

In the meantime, construction and planning continues on additional phases of the flood protection project. The first three phases are essentially complete. Property acquisition and structure removal continues on Railway Avenue as design work is under way on Phase 5 of the project, and we’re working with state and federal partners to find funding for the Maple Diversion, which is Phase 4.

Minot is also working to reduce insurance premiums for residents, recently earning a Class 6 rating with the Community Rating System. That means residents who are required to have flood insurance will receive a 20 percent discount on the premiums, beginning April 1, 2022. Any new policies on or after April 1, 2022, are eligible for the Class 6 discount; existing policies on that date will see the change when the policy is renewed. Under the CRS, communities earn points for accomplishing various activities, such as public outreach, floodplain property acquisitions, and preserving open space in a floodplain. The points translate to a classification, which can lead to discounts on flood insurance premiums.

The City and its partners continue to search for ways to shorten the timeline to complete the flood protection project. To do that, we need additional financial support from the State of North Dakota and the federal government. We must work to access every dollar of available funding to complete this project as efficiently as possible. Every year we cut off the overall construction timeline will save money in construction costs and interest on loan payments. The completion of this project is vital to the future protection of our community and the financial and emotional well-being of our residents.

We greatly appreciate the support we’ve received up to this point. Our partnerships with the Souris River Joint Board, the State Water Commission, and our elected leaders at the local, state, and federal levels have been instrumental in completing the initial phases of the largest infrastructure project in Minot’s history. But there is much work to be done, and we cannot relax until the project is complete.

Sincerely, City Hall

You can find more about what’s happening at the City of Minot at minotnd.org, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We’d also encourage you to sign up for our monthly electronic newsletter on our website.

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