By Skip Brandt, Denis Duman, and Mark Frei
Idaho County Commissioners
The Board of Idaho County Commissioners is considering rescinding Idaho County Ordinance #36 concerning flood damage prevention and exiting from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). This consideration is being given in an effort to minimize the impact of sanctions imposed by FEMA on the citizens of Idaho County.
In 1997, under pressure from FEMA, a previous commission adopted Ordinance #36. Maps that were provided were inaccurate and remain that way due to a lack of updating from FEMA. The county did what it could to work with FEMA even though tight budget constraints prohibited hiring an employee to exclusively monitor the ordinance.
In June, Idaho County was advised that FEMA would be coming to conduct a ‘Community Assistance Visit’ or CAV. This was followed up with an in-person review and report which identified 173 property owners that are subject to sanctions for non-compliance. We have been directed that the County is required to force compliance by charging the property owners a ‘reasonable and effective’ penalty until they comply. The recommendation from FEMA was $100-200 per day until compliance is obtained. Compliance, in some cases, would require structures to be torn down and/or elevated, which would not only be extremely expensive for homeowners, but also unrealistic. Updated mapping of previously designated flood areas has not been provided.
Idaho County has been advised that there are 21 property owners who participate in the NFIP. We would like to reach out to these people to engage them in discussion about the potential consequences of rescinding our ordinance. Our request to FEMA for their names and addresses was met by governmental red tape in the form of a 10-page draft agreement. Further complicating the matter is a Nov. 11 deadline for a response/plan of action imposed by FEMA. We are working to obtain the requested information, but may not have anything back from FEMA for several weeks. Meanwhile, we feel that it is prudent to give the public as much notice as possible concerning this development.
Our constituents have elected us to protect the rights of property owners, while also keeping property taxes as low as possible. We are mindful of the expense and bureaucracy created when trying to enforce federal mandates. As we move forward in considering the options available, we encourage the public to provide comments regarding the potential ramifications of either strictly enforcing the FEMA requirements or rescinding Ordinance #36.