A visit by two state officials provided hope that local floodplain map discrepancies can be reviewed and corrected.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued new floodplain maps for Pocahontas County in 2010. In some areas, those changes don’t make sense to local residents, who have seen where the water goes when the river spills over its banks.
National Floodplain Insurance Program (NFIP) coordinators Robyn Mumphard and Gregory McCann, with the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM), visited Marlinton last Thursday to discuss floodplain issues. The DHSEM works closely with FEMA to manage floodplains and the NFIP program.
Although the last NFIP assistance visit to Marlinton was in 1988, the officials said last Thursday’s visit was not due to recent publicity of floodplain discrepancies in Pocahontas County. Four NFIP coordinators work in West Virginia – two were present in Marlinton last Thursday.
“FEMA, every year, will have a list of communities to get a community assistance visit,” Mumphard said. “It’s coordinated by FEMA and the state. It’s done by FEMA, but FEMA does so many and the state does so many. Basically, we tour the floodplain, see if there’s any new developments, make sure people are coming in for a permit, make sure everything is built right according to the ordinance, and we give any assistance that we can.”
The officials met with Marlinton building inspector/floodplain coordinator Dick Groseclose, who invited The Pocahontas Times and local insurance broker Greg Mossesso to attend. Groseclose told the state officials that the most recent FEMA floodplain map is obviously incorrect.
“Up there by Court Street, it has never been in the flood zone – never,” he said. “It was definitely a mistake by FEMA, they transposed two streets is what they did.”
Mumphard said he knew the proper contacts to get the floodplain map fixed.
“I’ll give you the contacts,” he said. “Maybe there is something you can prove. John Daniels and Bob Pierson are our people at the FEMA office. They look at this stuff and if you can try to prove it, they can probably get it switched, if your argument’s well enough.”
Mumphard and McCann pledged their assistance.
“If need be, you can call me and I will talk to whoever needs talked to,” said Mumphard. “That’s what we’re here for. If we don’t know, we will ask them. This floodplain stuff, this NFIP stuff, it’s an ongoing thing.”
Groseclose said another state official provided little help in getting the maps fixed.
“You’ve created a little job for yourself, because I’ll get with both of you, instead of trying to fool with [NFIP Coordinator] Robert Perry,” he said. “He knows the corrections needed, through two mayors, and we haven’t got it corrected back yet.”
Mumphard said homeowners can get surveys to prove their property lies above the floodplain. Mosesso said homeowners shouldn’t have to pay for costly surveys when the government made the mistake.
“That $500 may not mean anything somewhere else, but that $500, for people here to get a survey done, is a lot of money,” he said.
Mumphard said FEMA contracts out flood mapping work.
“They contract engineering firms to do this for them, like URS and Dewberry,” he said. “One contractor will do one part; another will do another part; then they get together. So, they don’t really talk to each other like they should.”
Mosesso noted that state funding for the Marlinton floodwall project had been withdrawn and asked about flood mitigation assistance for homeowners.
“We’re not going to get a levee, so what’s the trend, what’s out there, where do we go?” he asked.
Mumphard provided contact information for State Hazard Mitigation Officer Brian Penix.
“Talk to Brian and see what they’ve got,” he said. “You’ve got some mitigation programs out there for elevations and buy-outs. Go for that for floodplain areas.”
Mumphard and McCann provided information on training events for floodplain coordinators, of which Groseclose said he would take advantage.
“It’s all new to me and I appreciate it,” he said.
The state officials visited Tenth Avenue with Groseclose and Mayor Joe Smith. Groseclose described how various properties in the area were affected by the map changes, and told the officials that the map update defied what people had observed during past floods. Mumphard and McCann promised to help get any discrepancies resolved.
In addition to discrepancies in the Marlinton floodplain maps, Mumphard said he would inquire about properties in Cass, that were left out of the 2010 floodplain, although purchased with government funds because they were in the previous floodplain.