Grand County may join national flood insurance program | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County may join national flood insurance program

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

With rivers on the rise this year, it’s not too far a stretch to contemplate flooding.

But for several years, property owners such as Dr. Andy and Becky Arnold of Tabernash have been having problems acquiring affordable flood insurance, mainly because the county does not participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Living east of Coyote Creek, he said, he wonders what would happen if a gully washer occurred on the high end of Crooked Creek. Given the right circumstances, “We’d be looking at Lake Tabernash right there,” he said.

“And we would like to be covered for that.”

Since private insurance companies stopped providing flood insurance due to mounting flood losses and other expenses, the federally backed National Flood Insurance Program was created in 1968 to make flood insurance available.

For many years, the county has opted not to participate in the program, instead requiring developers through regulations to address potential flood hazards as part of subdivision review.

But the county learned it may be forced to change its course after an informational workshop with Colorado National Flood Insurance Specialist Barb Fitzpatrick on Tuesday.

Governments can voluntarily join the national flood program, but not doing so means residents and businesses within their jurisdictions cannot qualify for flood insurance administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The towns of Winter Park, Fraser, Granby and Grand Lake have joined.

Granby just joined May 8, but Paul Chavoustie of Edgewater Resort in Granby learned the hard way why, in his opinion, governments should participate.

Congress launched a project to re-map the entire United States as one continuous layer of mapping for all hazards, but due to funding constraints, it has been a slow and selective process, according to Fitzpatrick.

Nevertheless, in spite of the county’s requests not to be mapped, the state of Colorado chose Grand County, presumably for its abundance of rivers and lakes, as a “high risk area” and had it mapped.

And because it was mapped, owners such as Chavoustie whose development is located above the 100-year flood plain in a map-shaded flood-risk area along the Fraser River, faced unforeseen problems.

Buyers in his development could not get financing without reasonable flood insurance on cabins. But insurance couldn’t be obtained due to Granby’s non-participation in the FEMA program at the time.

“On one of our cabins, we had to go to Lloyd’s of London in order to close the deal. I paid a little over $4,000 to get this 1,100 square-foot cabin insured for one year, and if the town had participated with FEMA ” or so the county ” it would have been $400. A huge price difference,” he said.

“Nobody asked for the map, nobody wanted the map, Granby or Grand County, although the map is not a negative thing, it’s a positive thing in the big picture,” Chavoustie said. “But the map was put in place and it’s there, and anybody within those boundaries, whether the mapping is exactly accurate or not, cannot get financing, can’t refinance the house, cannot buy or resell the house.”

Even now that Granby has joined, in recent weeks Chavoustie has been prevented from selling three cabins in his development because of government paperwork in the wake of flood-hazard mapping data he challenged.

Any individual or government agency can challenge the contents of FEMA mapping at their own cost, Fitzpatrick said, if they feel their property has been misrepresented.

According to literature Fitzpatrick distributed at the workshop, if a community does not adopt new flood plain management regulations, the community could be suspended from the National Flood Insurance Program. If that happens, the FEMA literature says property owners would not be able to purchase national flood insurance policies; federal grants or loans for development would not be available in identified flood hazard areas; federal disaster assistance would not be provided to repair insurable buildings in flood hazard areas for damage caused by a flood; and federal mortgage insurance or loan guarantees would not be provided in such areas.

When the county commissioners asked what the liability and cost would be to the county if it joins, Fitzpatrick responded that it would be an added duty for one of the county’s employees, possibly in the planning department, to inform building applicants of their whereabouts on the federal map. If in a flood plain, they’d be required to build above it and acquire flood insurance.

And liability ultimately belongs to property owners as it does with homeowners insurance, she said.

If the county decides to sign off on the program, any homeowner in the county, even in a high-risk area, could get flood insurance through the federal program. And, according to information at the workshop, the insurance may come in handy if there’s ever post forest-fire runoff threatening properties. “Runoff of surface waters from heavy rainfall” are covered under the program, according to FEMA literature.

Upon further study, commissioners plan to make a decision on Grand County’s participation with the FEMA flood insurance program at next Tuesday’s meeting.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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