The last time the Federal Emergency Management Agency drew out flood plain maps for Clay County was 1977. The last severe flooding in the area was in 1993.
Because the City of Brazil opted to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, federal assistance was available. Because the county has not opted to participate as of yet, federal help would not be available outside Brazil, if flooding occurred.
"Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program is strictly voluntary. About 85 counties and 320 communities in Indiana currently participate," Gerri Husband, Emergency Management director for Clay County, said.
She consulted a local insurance agent holding flood policies to estimate the approximate cost for an individual to obtain flood insurance. The average cost was about $2,000 per year. For Indiana residents living in flood plains in a city or county participating in NFIP, the average cost is about $300 to $400 per year. The federal government subsidizes the cost to reduce the individual's cost.
In order to participate in the NFIP, the county would have to adopt the state's basic flood damage prevention ordinance and then tailor it to fit Clay County. Newly-built homes must meet the guidelines. Existing homes would be grandfathered in and would not need to meet the guidelines unless the homeowner were to remodel more than 50 percent of the current market value of the house.
Letters of support from banks encourage Clay County Commissioners to consider the option to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. Since bank loans are backed by the federal government through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., banks cannot refinance or provide a new loan to people living in the flood plains without flood insurance. The insurance is mandated only during the life of the loan and the cost of the insurance would depend on the amount of the mortgage.
"The majority of people this affects is people living in the southern end of the county, especially next to the river," County Commissioner Daryl Andrews said. "The National Flood Insurance Program was presented to both the County Council and the County Commissioners at last month's meeting. Now it's in the Commissioners' hands to determine what to do based on community feedback."
This needs to be an educated decision, Husband said, and not based on misconceptions of the past. She said mitigation grants would be available to the county if it would opt to participate. Mitigation grants would help to put flood damage control into place.
Mapping for the flood plains is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the local emergency management office and the local surveyor's office.
Flood maps have not been updated since the original 1977 mapping. However, Husband said, FEMA would update the maps if the county opted to participate in NFIP.
"This would provide the opportunity to get the insurance, which we don't have today," Andrews said.
The next Commissioners meeting is March 3. Public comments and questions are invited both before and during the meeting.