County to consider flood insurance programParticipation in the National Flood Insurance Program is on the agenda for the Stutsman County Commission during its regular meeting on Sept. 1. If the commission agrees to participate, it will make flood insurance available to more rural residents in the county.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
Participation in the National Flood Insurance Program is on the agenda for the Stutsman County Commission during its regular meeting on Sept. 1. If the commission agrees to participate, it will make flood insurance available to more rural residents in the county.
“Participation by the county would allow individuals in rural areas to buy flood insurance,” said Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager. “NFIP is a federal program, administered in North Dakota by the North Dakota Water Commission, but local governments must participate to make it available to property owners.”
Currently the cities of Jamestown, Spiritwood Lake, Pingree, Kensal and Streeter participate as well as Nogosek and Corinne townships. Residents within those political subdivisions may buy flood insurance while other Stutsman County residents cannot.
For property owners or renters in a participating jurisdiction the insurance is purchased through their regular property insurance agent. The national average cost is $550 per year and coverage is subject to a 30-day waiting period and insurance deductibles. Benefits are limited to damage from overland flooding to buildings only.
“For a government to get involved there is an enrollment process that includes a land use plan for the areas prone to flooding,” said Jeff Klein, NFIP coordinator for North Dakota. “A part of the program is identifying and maintaining flood plain maps.”
Flood plain maps have only been developed for Jamestown in Stutsman County.
“If there is no map the entire area is viewed as not prone to flooding until a map is done,” Klein said. “The rates for insurance would be low and so would the government’s obligations for zoning and planning.”
But the unknown quantity to the county’s obligation concerns Doug Kaiser, Stutsman County commissioner.
“It’s like signing a blank check,” he said. “I wanted to be cautious; I don’t want to cost the county money down the road.”
Kaiser also indicated he would likely support participation out of concern for future Federal Emergency Management Agency projects.
“Local government participation is required so there will be an entity in charge of managing the flood plain,” Bergquist said. “What level of management you could do without a flood plain map to go by is hard to tell.”
Bergquist said the likelihood of a flood plain map for rural Stutsman County seems remote.
“Chances are virtually zero in the near future,” he said. “If you were FEMA would you spend money to map a river with 50 houses along it?”
Klein said much of North Dakota has not been mapped.
“At one time they intended to map all areas participating in the program,” he said. “They couldn’t afford this so they allow participants without flood plain maps. In North Dakota one-third of the participating agencies are without maps.”
But Klein said some counties are requesting maps be done.
“The county was worried they would be asked to pay for mapping,” he said. “Some counties have helped pay for mapping but only at their request.”
Klein also said 43 of the 53 counties in North Dakota already participate.
“There are more than 13,000 policies written in North Dakota,” he said. “In Stutsman there are 144 policies with 141 in Jamestown and three in Spiritwood Lake.”
While Bergquist described the drawbacks to participation in the NFIP as impossible to know until the county was involved, he did see benefits for property owners to purchase flood insurance where it is available.
“In some cases lenders require it,” he said. “And it provides deeper and more thorough coverage than FEMA. For FEMA to provide individual assistance to people with damage from a flood there has to be 100 homes with significant damage. Flood insurance would pay if you have the only home damaged in the whole state.”
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org