Government-backed flood insurance coming to Grand County
Residents encouraged to get coverage as soon as possible
Grand County residents will soon have access to affordable flood insurance as a heightened risk looms for the coming season.
Burn scars create a huge potential for comparatively small amounts of rain to cause mudslides and debris flows. Following the East Troublesome Fire, many areas downhill from the scar are at an increased risk of flooding.
“We know that after having a serious wildfire like we had there is more than likely going to be flooding from it,” Community Development Director Robert Davis said.
On Tuesday, Grand County commissioners voted to apply for the National Flood Insurance Program. Managed by FEMA, the NFIP enables eligible owners and renters to purchase federally backed flood insurance, which tends to be the cheapest option.
However, to be a part of this program, the county will adopt and enforce floodplain management rules to reduce future flood damage. The biggest issue with this in Grand relates to agricultural buildings and watercourse alterations.
See if your property is in a FEMA mapped floodplain by going to msc.fema.gov and entering your address. Regardless of where you live, you will qualify for NFIP-backed flood insurance and are encouraged to consider getting coverage.
• Zone starting with A or V — high hazard area. You will be subject to certain floodplain requirements for building.
• Zone X — moderate or low hazard area. You will not be subject to extra floodplain requirements.
• Zone D — flood risk has not been determined. You will not be subject to extra floodplain requirements.
Through the NFIP, the county must issue permits for those type of buildings that would sit within a currently mapped floodplain. Commissioners expressed some concerns that these requirements would be too onerous.
Most of Grand County sits in Zone D or Zone X, which would not be subject to these requirements. FEMA said it is 5-8 years out from remapping the flood plains in Grand, which could alter where high flood risk zones, known as Zone A, are and possibly lead to more properties being subject to these requirements.
For the property owners in those areas, county staff plans to work with FEMA to create adjustments for special circumstances.
“We will work to make that process as easy as possible for our citizens,” County Manger Ed Moyer promised.
The commissioners had to balance the desire to keep agricultural building as un-cumbersome as possible for those living near flood zones along with the need to provide affordable flood insurance options for locals.
“For me, there’s too many unanswered questions regarding the agricultural exemption,” said Commissioner Kris Manguso, who initially opposed moving forward with the program but lost the vote 2-1.
A citizen who owns a property near Tonahutu Creek in Grand Lake spoke up about his desire for the county to implement the program.
“I have genuine concerns that there’s a disaster upstream from me pending,” he said to commissioners. “I would like to buy some flood insurance but it is inordinately high right now.”
Davis pointed out that Grand has not previously had many issues with flooding, which is probably why the county has not participated in the program. Moyer said that the county would likely have to join the program at some point in the future and, with the increased risk from the burn scars, right now makes a lot of sense.
“I can’t predict what the future holds for Grand County, but I know that we’re amongst a very small handful of counties in Colorado that do not participate in NFIP,” Moyer said.
With the rainy season quickly approaching, county staff explained that they needed to know at that meeting whether to submit the application. Putting off the vote would have likely killed the process.
Following extensive discussions weighing the pros and cons of the program, Commissioners Rich Cimino and Merrit Linke voted in favor of applying to the NFIP. Manguso abstained and the measure passed 2-0.
“I just feel that I don’t have enough information to make a wise choice in this,” Manguso said. “I have serious concerns, as you all know, so I am abstaining.”
FEMA said that the county’s application would be prioritized with an answer on Grand’s approval for the NFIP expected within a week. Once the county is confirmed as a participating member, any resident in Grand County can contact their insurance agent to purchase flood insurance through NFIP.
There is a 30-day waiting period from time of purchase to when the policy goes into effect, and the government controls the pricing. Officials encourage everyone in Grand, especially those living downhill from a burn area, to get coverage.
“You need to get flood insurance,” Davis said. “You need to get it right away.”
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