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1/23/2018
Flood risks

Built along a narrow ribbon of shoreline on a rainforest island, the Ketchikan community interacts with water on a moment-to-moment basis.

As such, the community is aware of how water interacts with the terrain. We’re fortunate that most of the huge volumes of water that descend upon Ketchikan in the form of precipitation flows safely out to sea without causing harm.

In events of extraordinary rainfall, we generally have a good idea where problems might occur. Ketchikan Creek, for instance, has seen flooding in the past — most recently during the near-record rainfall (31.01 inches for the month) in January of 2015.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough has been a voluntary particpant in the National Flood Insurance Program since 1975, according to borough information.

As part of that program, a map of floodplain areas within the City of Ketchikan was developed, and flood insurance became available for properties within those areas.

In recent years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has undergone an effort to develop new assessments of coastal flooding risks. This process has produced a new proposed map of floodplains and base flood elevations — which extends along the coastline of Revillagigido Island into the Clover Pass area in the north and south past Herring Cove near the mouth of George Inlet.

Properties within a newly expanded local flood risk map area would be under floodplain management measures such as specific building requirements. Also properties that have a federally guaranteed mortgage in place would be required to have flood insurance.

Not everyone is likely to agree that the proposed map accurately reflects actual risk, but the borough would face a significant quandary if it chose to opt out of the National Flood Insurance Program.

For example, there would be no federal mortgage insurance or loan guarantees available for properties in the identified flood hazard areas, according to borough information. In addition, no resident would be able to buy a flood insurance policy.

Also, no federal grants or development loans could be provided for projects administered by federal agencies in the flood hazard area, nor could federal disaster assistance be made available to repair flood damage to insurable buildings within the flood hazard area.

There’s a lot at stake in getting this right. Hence, the preliminary maps and other aspects of the FEMA flood risk mapping process are the topic of a public open house meeting scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center.

 The open house should be a good opportunity for local residents to learn about the proposed risk maps. A good knowledge of these issues will be key in guiding local response to the proposed maps and related issues.

We urge interested community members to attend Thursday’s open house.