The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working its way across California, remapping flood zones and re-evaluating areas that have been determined not to have adequate protection against 100 year floods. This is increasing awareness of people’s risk of water damage caused by flooding. The result for farmers and others living in rural areas could be higher insurance costs and more restrictive building permits, not to mention disaster relief eligibility.
Remapped Flood Zones across California change the Water Damage game
Some farmers are concerned that the increased restrictions and regulations could drive them out of business, such as rice grower Tara Brocker. “This is going to impact rural communities throughout the nation; we just happen to be one of the first,” Brocker said. “Californiahas been identified by FEMA as the first state to be remapped, so what happens here is going to set a precedent for the rest of the nation.”
The initial revisions to be released indicate that a number of the levees found in SutterCountydo not meet current requirements for 100 year flood protection. As a result, virtually the entire county finds itself designated as a Special Flood Hazard Area. This means that all mortgage holders would be required to purchase flood insurance, facing higher rates, and agricultural owners would have to verify that all mortgaged buildings on their property are properly insured against flooding. Residents are concerned about the cost prohibitive nature of the new standards.
During discussions with local, state, and federal authorities, residents have offered farming as the best use of the flood plains, as opposed to residential or commercial development. California’s rural areas already bear a considerable share of the risk, with upgrades and fortifications occurring in urban or suburban areas well before they do elsewhere, simply due to the increase in population found in those areas.
“We believe most people will agree that agriculture makes sense as the best use for floodplains,” said Elisa Noble, director of livestock, public lands and natural resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation. “However, agricultural and rural communities need to be compensated somehow for bearing this increased risk.”
There is a movement afoot within the National Flood Insurance Program to adopt an “agricultural zone”, which may be taken up by Congress within the coming year. The move is met with resounding approval by a coalition of county farm bureaus, county governments, flood control agencies, landowners, and others.
“This is just the beginning of the coalition effort,” aid Elisa Noble, director of livestock, public lands and natural resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation. Noble said. “We plan to have many more groups involved throughout the state and country, as this will eventually affect every rural landowner living in a floodplain.”
All types of floods can occur in California, though 90% are caused by riverine flooding. Such flooding generally occurs as a result of excessive rainfall, excessive snowmelt, excessive runoff, levee failures, or a combination of these sources. Here in Sacramento levee failure is a big worry. Keep in mind there are 11-hundred miles of levees in the Delta and an earthquake-based levee failure in the Sacramento River Delta will wipe out the water supply for 23 million Californians due to ocean salt water mixing in with Sacramento’s fresh water. Sacramento can only handle 6-10 levee failures per year before it starts to run away from us. Being able to respond is a function of access, equipment and materials. The risk of 6-10 levee failures is 0.5% per year, so that’s 0.5% chance per year of Sacramento becoming for a while a “3rd World Country”.
If you are concerned about the flood risk facing your home or business, contact your local Clean Trust (IICRC) certified water damage restoration service provider. Determining the threat level and taking steps to prevent future problems can often be the key to avoiding devastating and costly water damage repair bills.
Thanks to the California Farm Bureau Federation for information and statistics contributing to this article.