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South Valley Journal

Are Bluffdale and Riverton homes at a higher risk for flooding? FEMA maps give insight

Oct 14, 2019 03:05PM ● By Stephanie Yrungaray

Residents from Bluffdale and Riverton learn about their flood risks at an open house held by state and federal agencies. (Stephanie Yrungaray/City Journals)

By Stephanie Yrungaray | [email protected]

Many Bluffdale and Riverton residents showed up to an open house hosted by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) at Riverton City Hall Sept. 9. 

FEMA partnered with state and local agencies to reassess the flood risk to homes located near seven tributaries including Midas Creek in Riverton and Rose Creek in Bluffdale. Homeowners with property in these areas were notified via mail that the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) were available for review and comment. Homes with federally backed mortgages or grants that are considered at a higher risk for flooding and classified as within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) are required to purchase flood insurance. 

“We are having an open house for citizens to show the new maps,” said Margaret Dougherty, RiskMAP program manager for FEMA. “[You can] give us your address, and we will show you where you are on the map and show you if going into a flood hazard area or coming out or if it has changed at all.”

“FEMA partnered with the state to update the risk for seven tributaries in Salt Lake County,” said Matt Buddie, National Flood Insurance Program specialist. “We wanted to give folks the opportunity to come out and see the maps, ask questions and help them understand their risk.”  

Buddie said the flood risk maps are updated about every five years. Improved technology and up-to-date information about property make the new maps more accurate. 

“Risk is a snapshot in time,” said Buddie. “There are a lot of different factors that can change what flood risk looks like. This is our opportunity to present [the maps] to the public and get feedback. We are going to go through a 90-day official appeal period where anyone who has information that shows something different than us can submit it to us, and we’ll review it to see if we can incorporate it into the process.” 

Rosie Hopkins attended the open house and said she was not happy to discover that the property she is building on in Riverton is in the SFHA. 

“I purchased the land six months ago, had my contractor draw out my plans, and I just submitted them to the city,” Hopkins said. “I had no idea until I received a letter that my property was in a floodplain.” 

Hopkins and her future neighbors Brianne and Eric Benson are hoping new information, including statements from the developers of their neighborhood, will remove the houses in their subdivision from the high-risk flood designation that requires higher-priced flood insurance. Midas Creek runs alongside the neighborhood. 

“Midas Creek in the very back part of my property,” said Hopkins. “It is a very steep embankment that goes down 7 or 8 feet. The creek is so small that the first time I looked at it I couldn’t even tell if it was running.” 

“It's fine if we are in a flood zone,” said Brianne Benson. “We just want to be in the correct zone.” 

“We are currently zoned as an AE; high flood risk,” said Eric Benson. “We should be an X, which means flood insurance is recommended but optional.” 

The Bensons said they have fought their flood risk designation several times over the past 6 1/2 years and have seen their flood insurance rates fluctuate between $400 a year to the current $1,200 a year they are paying. 

Dougherty said they encourage every person they speak with to buy flood insurance because flooding is not covered by homeowners' insurance and can happen to anybody. 

“Unfortunately, some people say I've lived here 10 years, and it's never flooded,” Dougherty said. “Statistics show that over a 30-year mortgage, one-quarter of houses will get flooded.” 

Buddie said the goal of the open house was to open the doors of communication with affected residents. 

“We all have risk; some just have a higher risk than others,” said Buddie. “That is what we are trying to depict on these maps. I always find if people know what their risk is and understand it, they can take action and try to minimize that risk for future impact.”

The timeline for the Flood Insurance Rate Map allows appeals for 90 days starting in December 2019. Final determinations should be made in the summer of 2020 with an effective Federal Insurance Rate Map projected to be completed fall of 2020 to early 2021. 

More information and contact information can be found at floodfacts.utah.gov.