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CORRECTION: Flood plain changes could cost

Corrects definition of flow rates, removes incorrect reference to city challenge

Posted: May 12, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Residents of some canyon areas may be pleasantly surprised to learn they are no longer required to buy flood insurance, but the news may not be so pleasant for Newhall residents who may soon find themselves in a designated flood plain.

The changes are due to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s ongoing remap of designated flood zones within the Santa Clarita Valley.

Owners of homes within areas deemed in danger of a 100-year flood are required to buy flood insurance if their mortgages are federally backed, according to Christina Monde, FEMA programs coordinator with the city of Santa Clarita.
Flood plains determine how much water would flow through an area during a flood and where that water is going to go, Monde said.

Some 90 percent of Santa Clarita Valley residents have federally backed mortgages, she said.

A typical flood-insurance policy runs $1,500 a year, Monde said.

Canyons status change
Residents may have been told they are required to purchase flood insurance in Mint, Sand, and Iron canyons because a map digitization effort started in 2003 pulled about 1,100 homes into a flood zone, Monde said.

FEMA used an unapproved study when it digitized the maps, Monde said. The unapproved study showed flow rates three times higher than actual, projecting a much larger area of flood inundation.

“Behind our back, (FEMA) went and stuck that data on our maps,” Monde said.

Monde said she battled FEMA for two years trying to get the maps revised and was finally successful in April 2011. She said residents who have concerns about their flood insurance requirements should contact her.

Veronica Verde, external affairs officer for FEMA, said she recommended the residents of Mint, Sand and Iron canyons keep their current flood insurance policies, even if they’re not required.

In Newhall, some homes and businesses may see their flood insurance requirements dropped, but others may face new flood insurance requirements, as FEMA revises more than 30-year-old flood maps for the Santa Clarita Valley.

Other changes expected
Maps for the Santa Clara River in the city’s boundaries and several tributaries are being revised, including South Fork, Newhall, San Francisquito, Bouquet Canyon and Placerita Canyon tributaries.

FEMA is paying for those studies, but at the same time it’s also revising its policy for levees — structures that protect areas from 100-year floods — meaning all the changes to flood plain maps are still several years out, Monde said.

So far, the agency has decertified three levees during its checks of 5.4 miles of levees, meaning areas near those levees are considered in danger in the event of a 100-year flood, Monde said.

Newhall flooding status
A levee that was decertified near Newhall means much of downtown Newhall is considered by FEMA to be in a flood zone, Monde said.

“We’re not completely convinced that the flooding is as bad as they say it is,” Monde said.

The city paid a contractor to look at the issue and see if the flood risk could be reduced, Monde said. The study showed most of the flooding during a 100-year event would be confined to streets and would not enter homes or businesses.

In downtown and east Newhall, about 300 residences and businesses could have their requirement for flood insurance dropped or lower their flooding risk, Monde said.

But another 150 residents in north Newhall could be in a flood zone.



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