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4/14/2018
Boro to discuss FEMA maps

By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly will be considering a motion to formally appeal the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s new flood plain maps at its meeting on Monday.

The issue has been one of concern to many in the community, whose properties, prior to the new Risk MAPs that were released early this year, were not in areas designated as a “flood zone” by FEMA.

The borough has been using the same flood maps since 1990, which only encompass part of the Ketchikan community. The old maps only stretch from near Tatsuda’s IGA to the Ketchikan International Airport.

In 2013, the State of Alaska recognized Ketchikan as a “priority community” to be re-mapped under FEMA’s new Risk Map program, and the Assembly gave four-hands approval to begin that process.

The new maps, which took some time to develop, encompass nearly the entire roaded-coast of Revillagigedo Island

In late January, FEMA held an open house during which more than 100 residents showed up, many upset that their properties might now need flood insurance.

Legally, if a property falls within the FEMA designated flood plain and has a federally backed mortgage, the owner is required to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurer, like Lloyds of London.

During this week’s annual federal advocacy trip to Washington, D.C., attended by Borough Mayor David Landis, Assembly Member Rodney Dial and Borough Manager Ruben Duran, the issue was discussed with FEMA, with Alaska’s legislative delegation and even at the White House.

According to the Assembly meeting agenda, those meetings in Washington, D.C., were key in crafting the formal appeal the Assembly will be considering on Monday.

“(The Ketchikan delegation) met with Congressman Young and others to discuss the NFIP, the Risk MAP process, NFIP insurance premiums and the appeal timeline,” the agenda item reads. “The direction from those meetings is reflected in the borough’s appeal.”

A mayoral letter from Landis to FEMA regarding the appeal says that, “The borough is certain that FEMA made clear mistakes in its modeling and interpolation that need to be addressed, ground-truthed and validated.”

The document goes on to list five “fundamental errors” the borough has found with the new maps:

• The flood models were insufficiently validated.

• The light detection and ranging — or LIDAR — data was not certified by a surveyor for accuracy.

• Tidal effects were misrepresented.

• Sea walls were inconsistently interpolated.

• The tidal areas (shorelines) were not accurately identified.

The letter also cites the recent example of Tuesday’s powerful windstorm in order to reiterate the point that coastal flooding is not an issue in the borough.

“As recently as April 10, 2018, the community experienced a southeastern storm surge, receiving 111 mile-per-hour winds,” Landis writes. “… However, there were no reports or observations of over-toppling or flooding.”

Should the Assembly formally approve the motion, it would appeal the “preliminary Special Flood Hazard Area boundaries and base flood elevations of the preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps.”

The motion would also request that the 90-day appeal deadline — which ends on May 2 — be extended to one year.

In addition, it requests that FEMA provide “specific flood insurance premium estimates for each SFHA, and requests that FEMA verify the SFHAs data and (base flood elevations) of the preliminary FIRM.”

Landis’ letter regarding the issue outlines just how serious the borough is about holding FEMA accountable and making sure that community is being represented as best as possible.

“Again it is stressed, FEMA’s January 2018 preliminary FIRMs are not accurate and do not reflect the current flood risks along the borough’s coast,” Landis writes. “The impact of the technical and scientific errors identified in the borough’s analysis of the preliminary FIRMs are significant.”

If approved, the appeal package would be sent to FEMA’s Region 10 engineer for consideration. To view the entire appeal package, visit: bit.ly/KTNAppeal.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the Assembly is also expected to:

• Introduce an ordinance amending borough code by increasing the spending authority of the borough manager from $25,000 to $50,000.

• Hear an update from Pat Tully, director of the Ketchikan Library on its strategic plan.

• Hear reports from both Landis and Duran.

• Convene executive sessions to evaluate the borough manager and the borough clerk.

Monday’s meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly chambers, 1900 First Ave. There will be time for public comment at the beginning of the meeting.