Wednesday, February 5 2014, 10:48 PM MST
Out-of-Date Flood Maps Cost Homeowners Ins. Dollars
(KUTV) Brent and Peggy Scadden's Roy City home has never been impacted by a flood. That is why they are not at all happy about what their insurance company recently told them. They are in a flood zone. They will have to buy flood insurance which comes with a price tag of about $800 per year.
According to flood maps drawn by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, theirs is one of about two dozen homes that sit in a small flood plain. According to FEMA, a park just east of their neighborhood has no natural drainage outlet which could lead to flooding of the homes.
But there is something odd about Brent and Peggy's neighborhood. Six of their neighbors which are technically located within the flood zone do not have to buy flood insurance.
Get Gephardt confirmed through public records that elevation surveys were conducted by those neighbors and those studies reveal the homes are not actually in danger of flooding.
The FEMA flood map now resembles a checkerboard, seeming to imply that if a flood occurred, the water would magically miss those six homes smack dab in the middle of the flood zone.
"I've never seen a flood that was that smart," Brent said.
Brent and Peggy say they contacted their insurance agent and were told what they expected: based on the elevation surveys of their neighbors, their home is likely not in a flood zone. But to prove it, Brent and Peggy would need to have their own survey conducted which comes with a $1500 price tag.
"That doesn't make sense when we can buy our way out of a flood zone," Brent said. "If we can buy our way out of it, it shouldn't be a flood zone."
Frustrated, Brent and Peggy decided to Get Gephardt.
We took their frustrations to Roy City and the city's hired engineer, John Bjerregaard. He says that when the FEMA map was drawn in 1978 it was accurate. The neighborhood was a flood zone but the reason some neighbors have been able to survey their way out is it's not a flood zone anymore.
Nearly 10 years ago, Roy City did extensive work on the park. They installed massive drains and a pump house to make sure water flows away from homes and instead out to the Great Salt Lake.
Bjerregaard says he and Roy City have asked FEMA to consider redrawing their maps but FEMA won't without and an expensive water study. The study will cost tens of thousands of dollars which is money Roy City is not prepared to spend.
"They're FEMA's maps. They're FEMA's responsibility," he said.
But FEMA spokesperson Matt Buddy says FEMA does not have the money or the manpower to fix this error or the others that exist on their flood maps.
"You can imagine the thousands of communities that are constantly doing mitigation type projects," Buddy said.
Buddy says if Brent and Peggy or Roy City wants the study done quickly, they should pay for their own study.
"We need to work with the community to get that technical information submitted to us so we can update the maps," Buddy said.
In this particular flood zone in Roy City, there are only 11 homes still impacted. FEMA says their representatives in states have to prioritize which areas to re-inspect. This Roy neighborhood is being treated as a low priority which frustrates Brent and Peggy.
"It's a low priority for them. Well it [isn't] low priority for me when it costs me 800 dollars a year," Brent said.
It all leaves Brent and Peggy with an expensive choice: pay for flood insurance they likely don't need or pay for a study to correct the error on the federal government's map.
By Matt Gephardt
Produced by Michelle Poe
Edited by Aaron Colborn
Photography by Brian Morris
(Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)