FEMA to South Dakota County: Submit Flood Insurance Records

More than 400 homeowners whose property lies along the Missouri River in southeast South Dakota could end up paying a $50 surcharge on their flood insurance if officials in Union County do not meet a federal deadline to submit flood insurance-related records.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to put Union County on probationary status with the National Flood Insurance Program starting in mid-May unless it addresses what it calls “program deficiencies” and “floodplain management violations.” FEMA is accusing the county of not having adequate record keeping and failing to manage development in the floodplain.

Barb Fitzpatrick, a flood plain specialist with FEMA, said the agency is waiting to receive records from the county regarding issues such as construction of basements in the mapped floodplain area, as well as the placement of a levee and an embankment.

Fitzpatrick said the documentation is standard procedure for communities in the flood insurance program.

The county also faces apparent violations for the construction of basements, which are banned in the floodplain.

The National Flood Insurance Program, a part of FEMA, underwrites flood insurance policies sold by commercial insurance companies. Union County joined the program in 1977 and the area’s current floodplain map was drawn in 2001.

Traditional insurance policies for homeowners and renters do not cover flood damage. People who live outside a mapped floodplain can get insurance at low rates, while premiums within flood plains depend on how buildings are built.

Zoning director Dennis Henze said the county plans to meet the deadline.

“We have a deadline of May 18, but the thing is they ask for certain information, we give it to them. Then, they decide they need more information, and I just hope they don’t drag it past the 18th,” Henze said. “They are continually asking for more information.”

FEMA’s regional office in Denver sent the county a letter in January listing the deficiencies and violations following a site inspection.

Henze, the only employee in his office, said two engineers had to be hired to gather all the information that FEMA requested. The county and area developers are paying for the engineers.

The county has 424 flood insurance policies. Only homeowners in the unincorporated area of the county, including Dakota Dunes, would be affected by the surcharge. But incorporated areas, such as North Sioux City, would not have to pay the penalty.

The levy documentation FEMA wants is for one built in Dakota Dunes following the Missouri River flooding in 2011. FEMA officials want to make sure the permanent levy, which was built along the 18th hole of a private country club, is not in the floodway.

Low-lying areas in Union County, including Dakota Dunes, faced rising water in June 2011 as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased flows through dams on the Missouri River to get rid of water from rains of up to 8 inches that fell in Wyoming, eastern Montana and western North Dakota and South Dakota.