By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — According to a new survey of the Eighteen Mile Creek floodplain, some homes in Colfax can come out of the floodplain with a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) while others would require hauling in fill before they might qualify.
Chris Goodwin of Ayres Associates met with homeowners affected by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain map at the Colfax village hall January 16.
According to the map Ayres provided, nine homes and one commercial property could be taken out of the floodplain with a Letter of Map Amendment.
For eight other properties, the first floor elevation is above the floodplain, but the adjacent grade is below the flood elevation and would require hauling in fill to raise the grade above the flood elevation.
Out of the eight properties, three would require so much fill that it would be unlikely the property owners would be able to raise the grade enough, Goodwin said.
The three properties that need the most fill are the former Green Cow restaurant, owned by Two Guys Investing LLC, and the next two properties south along county Highway M owned by Melissa Horel and Joby and Stephanie Molde.
The floodplain covers a substantial portion of the property between state Highway 40 and Railroad Avenue west of county Highway M to the Colfax Fairgrounds and also covers property on both sides of Highway 40 east of Highway M, including part of Evergreen Cemetery.
Homes in the floodplain with mortgages are required by the mortgage lender to have flood insurance.
Ayres Associates recently resurveyed the properties and updated FEMA’s hydraulic model with more accurate and detailed information.
After the fill is hauled in and the property is landscaped, the properties requiring an increase in the elevation also would have to be surveyed again before homeowners could apply for a LOMA, Goodwin noted.
Properties on the map that would require fill are owned by Wilfred and Iylah Morning, Carol Smith and Rodney Johnson, Jeff and Melissa Prince, Abraham Hendrichs, and Mike and Kara Buchner.
Properties that can apply for a LOMA right now are owned by Michael Bauer, Stephen and Kim Vandewalle, Gerald and Linda Henthorn, Merlin and Bess Jackson, Wes Grambo, Mike and Carol Boyd, David and Ethel Frogner, Wanda Knutson and Mark and Deborah Toycen.
The commercial property that could come out of the floodplain with a LOMA is the apartments on state Highway 40 opposite of the fairgrounds owned by Capital Partners Ltd.
Wilfred Morning pointed out that his lot extends from Highway 40 to Eighteen Mile creek.
“Does the elevation have to be raised all the way back?” he asked.
“No,” Goodwin replied. “Just around the house. Maybe four feet (out) around the house.”
Goodwin added that the fill should be sloped away from the house as would be done with any regular landscaping project.
Goodwin also said that it would have to be “normal” landscaping and could not fill window wells or cover up windows or doorsills.
Even if properties in the floodplain are not currently required to have flood insurance, a LOMA might still be a good idea.
Goodwin pointed out that homeowners who own properties that do not have mortgages and are not currently required to have flood insurance may want to consider applying for a LOMA for the future salability of their properties.
“If you can get property out of the floodplain, it’s a small amount of money to pay versus the ‘stigma’ of the house being in a floodplain for future possibilities of sale,” he said.
Goodwin also pointed out that flood insurance is cheaper if a property is not in a floodplain, and that it is not a bad idea to have flood insurance.
“Just because you are not in a floodplain do not assume that you are not in danger of flooding,” he said.
Goodwin gave the example of Duluth and Superior getting nine inches of rain last summer and the flooding that went along with it.
The FEMA floodplain map for Colfax is based on a 100-year flood event.
As Goodwin explained, that means each property has a 1 percent chance each year of being flooded.
At past meetings about the FEMA floodplain map, people who have lived in Colfax for years have noted the thunderstorm in August of 2010 that dumped about eight inches of rain on the area in a couple of hours
Eighteen Mile Creek carried a tremendous amount of water the day after the thunderstorm, but the water level never came anywhere close to flooding the properties along the creek.
Following the same rain event, the banks of the Red Cedar River washed out in places near the village’s wastewater treatment lagoons.
As for the cost, if all nine of the homeowners asked Ayres to do the application for a LOMA at one time, the total cost would be $2,200, or about $250 for each property, Goodwin said.
If the homeowners asked Ayres to apply for the LOMA separately, the cost would be about $600 each, he said.
“It’s an economy of scale … we could write one contract with the village and one invoice for $2,200,” Goodwin said.
If done separately, the total cost for the nine LOMA applications would be $5,400.
As for those properties that require fill to raise the elevation, the cost for another survey and the LOMA application might be around $1,000, Goodwin said.
After the application is submitted to FEMA, a Letter of Map Amendment would be issued in about six to eight weeks, he said.
One homeowner wondered about obtaining reimbursement from the federal government for flood insurance that has been paid since the time the new FEMA map was issued and the properties were officially considered to be in the floodplain.
Goodwin said that after the LOMA is issued, there is a process for FEMA to reimburse homeowners for flood insurance that they have already paid.
The Colfax Village Board officially adopted the new floodplain ordinance a year ago, in January of 2012, but not because board members agreed with the boundaries of the floodplain.
The village board was required to create a new floodplain ordinance before the floodplain designation could be challenged and changed.
At the July 23 meeting last summer, the Colfax Village Board approved paying 80 percent of the cost of attempting to remove properties from the floodplain while the homeowners would share in 20 percent of the cost.
Previous estimates given to the village board indicated that the cost for ground elevations and verifying the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) cross section elevations would be $4,000.
The cost to revise the floodplain model and submit it to FEMA and the state Department of Natural Resources would be around $9,000. FEMA would review the updated map for a fee of $5,000.
The Colfax Village Board is expected to take action on a contract with Ayres for the Letter of Map Amendment applications at the January 28 meeting.
Goodwin provided a LOMA application and a packet of detailed instructions to the homeowners attending the meeting.
Property owners can fill out the applications themselves and submit them to FEMA if they are so inclined to tackle the job.