Hearing examines floodplain concerns

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Planning Commission conducted a public hearing Wednesday night on proposed changes to the county’s new digital floodplain maps and floodplain ordinance.

A second public hearing will be conducted after final determination is made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The second hearing will be conducted before the Wood County Commission and will probably be held in the fall.

The ordinance and maps under review by county planners only apply to the unincorporated areas of the county. The ordinance was last changed in 2007.

Ed Hupp, Wood County Emergency Management director, conducted the hearing Wednesday night. He said the base flood elevation is now 609 feet; it was 610 feet.

The county has an additional two-foot freeboard. The freeboard lowers flood insurance rates, but property owners can appeal its application to the county commission.

“If we don’t straighten out these issues now, later homeowners will have to deal with problems with their flood insurance,” Hupp said. “We are now required to notify FEMA of any major construction that might affect the base flood elevation.”

Property owners will be required to sign an agreement they will not convert garage/storage buildings into living space. That agreement would be passed onto the next owner of that property.

“I was startled recently to learn that part of the property we have is in the floodplain and I was told the insurance could be drastically affected,” said Bob Enoch.

“It’s up to the bank to determine if flood insurance is required. If the structure is in the floodplain, you are required to have flood insurance,” Hupp said.

Copies of the new digital maps are available for public viewing in Hupp’s office at the Core Road 911 center and at the Wood County Courthouse.

The county’s floodplain maps were created in 1985. Hupp said many of the proposed changes in the ordinance are to update the legislation to bring it into compliance with changes made by the state.

The county received about 105 pages of the digitized maps. The cities of Vienna, Parkersburg and Williamstown have their own maps and handle the program within their corporate limits. Hupp only handles the rural, unincorporated areas and North Hills.

In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program to provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP.

Participating communities agree to adopt and enforce ordinances that meet or exceed FEMA requirements to reduce the risk of flooding, which include requirements for building permits and building elevations for structures within the floodplain areas.

Wood County joined the program in 1977. Violations of floodplain regulations and building permit requirements can result in probation or suspension from the federal flood insurance program, affecting federally subsidized flood insurance policies and future county flood claims through FEMA.

If the county is found to be in violation of flood insurance program regulations, it can be placed on probation or removed from the program, making federally subsidized flood insurance unavailable.

Regulations require buildings in the floodplain be elevated to a required height above flood level, and a surveyor and engineer must certify the elevation. Recent changes require certification of the elevation levels, as well as inspections of the structure to assure elevation and anchoring requirements have been met.

The revised maps are based on new studies of the Ohio and Little Kanawha rivers and as well as tributaries that drain into those rivers.