New floodplain maps may force some victims of the #COflood off their land

Flooding St. Vrain River September, 2013 via Voice of America
Flooding St. Vrain River September, 2013 via Voice of America

From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Scores of Colorado residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by September’s floods might have to move rather than rebuild because their lots are now considered too vulnerable to future flooding. Local governments are hustling to update old hazard maps, and the revisions could make some existing neighborhoods off-limits for construction, The Denver Post reported Sunday.

More than 17 percent of the houses that were destroyed or damaged in four hard-hit counties — Boulder, Larimer, Logan and Weld — weren’t in designated flood plains at the time of the deluge, the newspaper said. Some of those houses were built long before hazard maps were drawn up, and some of those maps maps were 30 years old.

The mid-September floods killed nine people and damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 homes.

Larimer County is preparing to tell 77 homeowners they cannot rebuild because of flood danger, officials said, but they can appeal.

In the Weld County town of Milliken, officials said a mobile home park might be re-designated as a flood plain. The town has warned the owners of 33 mobile homes they could be required to move if that happens. Park residents said town officials required them to sign an affidavit acknowledging that possibility before they could get a building permit for flood repairs.

“We were trapped — you either sign it or you don’t get your house back,” resident Martha Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said it feels like the town is using the flood as an excuse to get rid of park residents. Town officials said they don’t want to lose the residents but wanted to give them fair warning.

“We just wanted to be transparent and let them know that we care and we want them to know,” Johnson said. “We don’t know if it’s going to be in the flood plain at all,” said Anne Johnson, the town’s economic development director.

State and federal laws do not prohibit construction in flood plains or even floodways, where the deepest floodwater is predicted. Communities make their own rules, and typically, people are not allowed to build in a floodway but can live on the fringes of the flood plain.

State flood-management officials plan to have preliminary revisions of flood plain maps for counties that were flooded in about a month, said Kevin Houck, chief of watershed and flood protection for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“Communities are absolutely clamoring to get information as fast as possible so life can go on and planning decisions can be made,” Houck said. “This has been by far the biggest push to update them that I’ve seen in at least my 10 years here.”

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