The City of Minot is investing in an official appeal of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood risk maps that will result in significant savings for area residents.
The City Council’s decision on Feb. 18 to file an appeal could delay the implementation of the flood risk maps by as little as six months, or as long as two years, according to City Engineer Lance Meyer.
Every delay in implementation is good news for Minot and other area residents who own property in the flood zone under FEMA’s latest updated maps, which included a base flood level at 10,000 cubic feet per second of river flow. According to FEMA, Minot has approximately 1,929 active flood insurance policies with a total premium of just over $1 million. With anticipated premium increases over the next two years, the total premium would climb to approximately $1.6 million, and if the number of policies rises, the total premium could jump to $1.8 million.
Successfully delaying implementation of the maps during an appeal process could help keep the total premium to just over $1 million in 2023, saving area residents significant money.
While the appeal process comes with an estimated cost of $250,000, the savings to area residents in flood insurance costs is still well worth the time, money, and effort to file the appeal. As Council member Shannon Straight rightly pointed out at the last meeting, this decision “is in the best interest of the community.”
The appeal is also in the best interest of everyone in the Souris River basin who could be affected by the updated flood risk maps. Meyer said the appeal will be based on differences in hydrology modeling throughout the entire Souris River basin.
Meyer told Council members that modeling by FEMA differs with modeling done by the City in conjunction with Ackerman-Estvold, with FEMA’s projections including more properties in the flood zone. Meyer said the City’s hydrology models include a river flow of 8,000 cubic feet per second with a smaller flood zone and fewer properties that would be required to have flood insurance.
Meyer said he believes the City has a 50/50 chance of winning an appeal, which makes the process well worth the cost and effort. We know there are no guarantees, of course, but the support shown for residents of this community from Council members was apparent in the unanimous vote to move forward with this appeal.
How did we get to this point? It’s been a long process, for sure. FEMA issued its preliminary flood insurance rate maps in June 2017. The City submitted comments on those maps, which delayed the implementation by roughly 18 months. Under the current schedule, FEMA will soon publish its updated maps in the Federal Register. Once the maps are published, the City has 90 days to file its appeal.
Of course, that means the City has 90 days to essentially compile years of data to make its case. Once that information is assembled, it will be submitted to an independent scientific review panel, along with FEMA’s information. The review panel will make a final determination.
During the appeal process, the flood risk maps won’t change, meaning flood insurance rates likely won’t change, either.
If nothing else, the decision to appeal serves as yet another reminder to property owners in the current flood zone: If you haven’t already done it, buy flood insurance and maintain that insurance. That way, when the flood risk maps eventually change, existing policies will be grandfathered in at current lower rate zones, with a limit of how much policies can increase on an annual basis. If you purchase a flood insurance policy after the new maps take effect, your premiums will be much higher.
We know many staff members will put in countless hours to compile the information and prepare it for the review panel. We thank them ahead of time, and we’re hopeful that the appeal will reduce the number of area residents, both inside Minot and in Ward County, who will be required to carry flood insurance. At the very least, the appeal process could buy us all more time to complete phases of flood control as we continue working to remove the entire basin from risk.