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New digital mapping will replace outdated FEMA maps

by Candice Miller on April 27, 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

By Jeri Packer, Voice Staff Writer

The beginning of summer last year was not so sunny for some Clay Township families as they learned a new flood plain map from the Federal Emergency Management Agency put their properties in a flood zone.

The change seemed be made arbitrarily, with little data to prove the new numbers. It ended up costing local homeowners hundreds of dollars in flood insurance as mortgage companies were mandated by federal law to require a flood policy.

A year later, many will be granted relief as the federal government has replaced outdated maps with digital renderings aimed at more accurately determining risk.

Last year, engineering companies such as Project Control Engineering in Clay Township were kept busy with the change. Homeowners began requesting surveys, costing them $200 to $300, to confirm or deny their new flood zone allocation. In an earlier interview, PCE President John R. Monte said about 80 percent of the homes they surveyed in the Clay Township and Algonac area were found to be out of the flood zone. Monte said the elevation is measured at the lowest outside grade adjacent to the home. If a resident’s elevation certificate showed their home was out of the flood elevation zone, they were required to send a letter of map amendment to FEMA to eventually have their home removed from the flood plain.

U.S. Congresswoman Candice Miller, Senator Phil Pavlov and Clay Township Supervisor Jay DeBoyer openly opposed the adoption of the FEMA flood plain map and the National Flood Insurance Program that residents were required to have.

“I am in favor of authorizing FEMA to use the new method of digitizing the old, outdated maps with state of the art satellite technology,” said Miller.

Over the years, though, huge government pay-outs to other states in distress have been based on politics rather than policy, she said.

“The real issue is the federal government needs to get out of the insurance business,” Miller said. “The results have been that the federal flood insurance is $19 billion in the hole and has put Michiganians at a bad disadvantage.”

Miller has led the fight for allowing Michigan to opt out of the NFIP and stop paying premiums going toward states stricken by hurricanes and other natural disasters.

“Michigan needs to become self-insured,” she said, “even if it has to pool with another state similar to Michigan, like Ohio.”

Chuck Miller, president of the Harsen’s Island St. Clair Flats Association, along with other residents on Harsen’s Island, was also active in opposing FEMA for what they perceived as a faulty flood plain map.

“Effective with the release of the final maps, FEMA stated it will be reducing the Base Flood Elevation back to 578.6,” Miller noted. “This is the number that we argued was acceptable.”

What seems to be a win for Clay Township and Algonac residents is still not a total victory, said Clay Township Supervisor Jay DeBoyer. Until the new mapping is completed, homeowners in the old flood plain will still have to prove they aren’t by submitting a LOMA, requiring them to pay the cost for a surveyor.

Also, FEMA isn’t promising any reimbursements to these same homeowners in the future.

For now, DeBoyer wants stay positive that their situation will change in time, if they keep the pressure on.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said DeBoyer. “I’m waiting until they finish the new mapping in the fall. If they do what they say they will do, the results are going to be huge.”

What he’s recommended to residents for now is to follow federal guidelines for the time being until FEMA makes the map corrections.

DeBoyer believes the promised changes are due to the giant effort of local and state officials as well as the homeowners.

“Congresswoman Miller has been a fire for us for the last 10-12 years ago,” he said. “Now Senator Phil Pavlov, my predecessor, Jon Manos, and some very dedicated citizens took on this fight.”

He admits that he will be content with just the mapping change to 578.6.

“It’s a testimony of what people can do when they put their political differences aside for a worthy cause,” he said.

Contact Jeri Packer at (586) 716-8100, ext. 302 or

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