Llano County questions accuracy of FEMA flood maps

STAFF WRITER JARED FIELDS

Llano County commissioners and staff look at a map provided by county surveyor John Ables showing discrepancies between high-water marks from the October 2018 flood and proposed Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain maps. Commissioners approved a resolution to send to FEMA during the May 6 workshop demanding the federal agency consider all new flood data before beginning the final appeal process. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Llano County commissioners and staff look at a map provided by county surveyor John Ables showing discrepancies between high-water marks from the October 2018 flood and proposed Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain maps. Commissioners approved a resolution to send to FEMA during the May 6 workshop demanding the federal agency consider all new flood data before beginning the final appeal process. Staff photo by Jared Fields

Patty Pfister not only has high-water marks from the October 2018 flood on her family land in Castell but also from the historic flood of 1935.

Both floods brought the water up to near the same spots, Pfister said during a Llano County commissioners workshop May 6.

According to proposed Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain maps, much more of Pfister’s land sits in a flood-prone area.

Flood maps show water, during a major flood, would cover houses and barns on Pfister’s property, she said.

“When FEMA did their proposed map, like I said, they didn’t have it stopped there at the road; they had it going, oh, my goodness, in city blocks, probably two blocks up my property,” Pfister said.

Hers is just one example of the discrepancies between the FEMA maps and documented high-water marks from the October flood along the Llano River and its tributaries, according to commissioners.

FEMA is asking Llano County to approve new maps. Llano County, instead, wants to make corrections to the maps before accepting them. An appeal period for the county is June 26 through Sept. 24.

After the workshop, commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution to be sent to FEMA officials.

The two-page resolution lays out the county’s reasons for finding the effective FEMA maps to be inaccurate and concludes:

“NOW BE IT RESOLVED, Llano County demands that FEMA consider all new critical flood data currently being collected from the October 16, 2018 flood, before conducting any public meetings and beginning the final appeal process.”

The county said the proposed maps do not include recent data, and it will not “accept anything less than the most accurate FEMA (Flood Insurance Rate Map) and (Physical Map Revision) possible.”

According to FEMA, more than 25 percent of flood damages occur outside the Special Flood Hazard Area.

People without flood insurance risk uninsured losses to their home, property, and business. Federally backed mortgages must have flood insurance if the structure is in the Special Flood Hazard Area.

During the workshop, commissioners and County Judge Ron Cunningham repeatedly made the point they just want the maps to be correct for their constituents.

Besides previous experience, the discussion and resolution reference a 2017 report from the Office of Inspector General, which concluded: “FEMA needs to improve management of its flood mapping programs.”

County surveyor John Ables will continue gathering data, and the county will send its resolution to FEMA. The commissioners also discussed the possibility of hiring an engineer and outside counsel. Those items could be on an upcoming commissioners court agenda.

jared@thepicayune.com

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