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As Spillville gets ready to battle floodwaters, FEMA is working on updating Winneshiek County flood maps

Posted: Wed, Mar 13, 2019 2:55 PM

In 2009 and 2010, planes using advanced LIDAR technology ("Light Imaging Detection and Ranging) flew over Winneshiek County, using laser light pulses to scan the ground beyond. It was the start of a process to gather new data about floodplains in Winneshiek County and was part of a statewide floodplain mapping project

Now that data is being used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create new maps predicting flooding chances along the Upper Iowa River, Turkey River and other rivers and streams in the county.  It's a lengthy process which took its next step this week with a public forum in Decorah, preceded by a work session with local officials.

This latest stage in the process is designed to get feedback on the preliminary flood maps, which will be used in determining whether property owners are eligible for flood insurance.  Typically it takes 18 to 24 months after their issue date for flood maps to become effective.

Part of that process is a 90-day appeal period.  However, such appeals must be based on technical information certified by a Professional Engineer or Land Surveyor, not just on comments from the public.  At issue in such appeals is whether the boundaries of the "Special Flood Hazard Area" have been drawn correctly.  It's a potentially important question--if your property is moved out of the "SFHA," you possibly can stop paying for flood insurance; while if your property is being moved into the "SFHA," it is possible you will be required to carry flood insurance in the future.