Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In Woodside, flood map brings new cost

Some residents will have to buy insurance

Express Staff Writer

About 150 residents of Woodside subdivision in Hailey have received letters from home lenders telling them to buy flood insurance. An equal number will find flood insurance cut from mortgage requirements.

"We don't hear from the ones who dropped out," said Hailey Flood Plain Administrator Jim Zarubica.

But Zarubica said he's been getting about five calls per week from residents seeking elevation analyses of their homes to get a price from insurance agents on flood insurance policies.

Zarubica said flood insurance can cost from $300 to several thousand dollars per year, depending on the location of buildings and whether the residence has a basement. He said preferred-rate insurance policies are available to some residents for up to two years, based on how long ago the home was built and other criteria.

"The higher in elevation the home is built, the cheaper the insurance will be, but there is no law etched in stone about the insurance rates," he said. "People will have to talk to insurance agents to get the cheapest rates."

The floodplain map change stems from a Federal Emergency Management Agency flood insurance study conducted last year for Blaine County. The study updated a map of the floodplain in Woodside subdivision, which drains Quigley Creek.

A floodplain map created in 1981 by FEMA designated areas on and beside Woodside Boulevard as the flow channel for floodwaters from Quigley Creek. The last time the area flooded was in 1963, during what Zarubica described as a "freak event."

Zarubica said a wet fall that year, followed by a cold, dry winter led to frozen ground in February when the city saw 3 inches of rain fall in a short period of time.

"The water had nowhere to go but the Big Wood River," he said.

The railroad track running between Hailey and Bellevue contained the waters until they spilled out across Main Street in Bellevue. Today the channel has been redirected through culverts within Woodside subdivision and southward to the Big Wood River.

About 250 Woodside residents have been required by lenders to buy flood insurance for years. Zarubica said new digitized mapping methodologies have led to a shift in the location of the map, causing some residents to have to buy insurance, and others to no longer be required to do so.

"FEMA basically slopped the map in," he said. "It didn't change shape but it shifted across Woodside Boulevard."

Zarubica said those affected by the map change live on Woodside Boulevard, Blue Lake Drive, Baldy View Drive, Shenandoah Drive, Countryside Boulevard and Briarwood Drive.

Zarubica said the city of Hailey is lobbying FEMA to reconsider the new map under a Risk Map Program to get relief for Woodside residents, but the effort could take six years to accomplish, with no guarantee of success.

The city is also exploring the option of forming a local improvement district, made up of affected Woodside residents, who could pitch in toward a $500,000 channel restoration and maintenance project that could alter the floodplain map by redirecting flood waters away from houses and streets.

Tony Evans:

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