Point of Beginning

New Flood-Risk Maps Chart Potentially Costly Course for Area

August 15, 2007

The new flood-risk maps for Brown County, which will be on display today for municipal officials and the public, could have a long-range impact on property owners, developers, builders, real estate agents, insurance companies and mortgage lenders.

For some, the impact could be expensive.

"It could be very costly," said Humboldt Town Chairman Norb Dantinne, who hopes to see more residential development in the town just east of Green Bay. "(Flood-risk designation) could make the land unusable. Right now, someone couldn't put a garage up next to their house."

Dantinne will attend today's open house for local officials at 3 p.m., hoping to see an eventual reduction in the town's flood-plain areas. The public is invited at 6 p.m.

The maps are the result of five years of work by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has been directed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to modernize flood-risk maps into a countywide format.

"Our mission is to try to identify those high-risk areas so the communities can take that risk into consideration in many different ways," said Eric Kuklewski, natural hazards program specialist for FEMA's Chicago office. He said flood-plain designation doesn't eliminate construction, but defines the risks.

A flier distributed by FEMA states: "If you live in a high-risk flood area, you have a 26 percent chance of experiencing a flood during the life of a 30-year mortgage compared to a 9 percent chance of a fire. Find out your risk … ways you can protect your home and loved ones from future flooding."

The soon-to-be-published maps could mean more participants in the National Flood Insurance Program. "I'm sure it might upset some of our current customers," said Tanya Sushkova, a loan officer for Tri-Star Mortgage of Green Bay, noting that some property owners might be required to purchase flood insurance. "We'll get some phone calls."

The maps present the most updated floodplain data ever available here, identifying land, particularly in more rural areas, that has never before been classified as a flood risk.

"In the short term, we'll feel the pain," said Bill Bosiacki, Brown County's zoning director. "In the long run, it will be a good thing."

Bosiacki noted that some areas such as the towns of Humboldt, Pittsfield and Wrightstown, have undergone a detailed flood-risk study for the first time.

Kuklewski said there will be a 90-day appeal process, but it will depend upon the issues raised today. "Our information is based on technical data," Kuklewski said. "For someone to walk in and say they don't like it, that won't work. Technical data needs to be submitted. But this will help people construct homes in a way that is safer. It's more important to know what you're dealing with than to be surprised when there's a flood."

Todd Gerbers, zoning administrator in Ashwaubenon, said 500 letters were sent to property owners last month advising them of today's open house.

"We've had a lot of inquiries, so we hope they'll go to the meeting," Gerbers said.

Source: greenbaypressgazette.com, August 15, 2007.