U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was recently in the Mohawk Valley to call on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update flood maps in Johnstown. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, Schumer says the outdated information is costing business and residents.
Senator Schumer joined local officials in Johnstown to discuss the need for FEMA to allow communities to update their flood maps.
The maps determine a waterway’s flood zones and are used to determine whether a business or homeowner is required to buy flood insurance.
“Why am I here today? Because in the case of Johnstown the flood maps are doing more harm than good,” said Schumer.
Schumer stood outside a shopping center that, according to a recent engineering study commissioned by the city, is inaccurately placed in a flood zone, along with 50 other surrounding properties.
Johnstown’s flood maps were completed by FEMA in 1983.
“We must use the latest technology, not relics of the past, and create the revised maps. Updating the maps would be a win-win. The Community would benefit because homes that are in the flood zone for no reason would be taken out, and FEMA would benefit because Johnstown has already done the engineering analysis that can speed the process along,” said Schumer.
The Democrat recently sent a letter to FEMA asking the agency to work with the city to update the flood maps as soon as possible.
David Goldstein, an owner of the Johnstown Shopping Center, said because the plaza is in a designated flood zone, he must pay $50,000 in insurance costs.
“It really is a waste of money,” said Goldstein.
Goldstein also said the designation makes it harder to attract new business and to find necessary coverage.
“Having a designation of being in a flood zone, a lot of lenders, insurance companies, et cetera won’t even touch it.”
Alton Knapp of floodplain management company A.E. Knapp & Associates said he’s seen new technology prove older maps inaccurate.
“We’ve gone into some of the newer maps, and they’re darn good. They’re within a half-a-foot in most places. I’ve had a place up on Lake Champlain that was 30 feet above the lake and it was in the flood plain. That’s crazy.”
FEMA spokeswoman Susan Hendrick said, “FEMA continually works with communities to update and develop flood maps to inform them of their current flood risk. These actions allow community members to take important steps to prepare for flooding risk in their area.”