FEMA floodplain update

The above map is the most up-to-date version FEMA has provided to Madison County officials. The yellow area is the floodplain established by the Army Corps of Engineers several decades ago. The red area is the proposed floodplain and is dotted with non-floodplain areas.

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Local representatives from Madison County have recently returned from meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The meetings took place in Boise, where both parties discussed how to move forward in remapping a floodplain that covers much of Rexburg and nearly all of Sugar City.

Madison County Planning & Zoning Administrator Bradley Petersen has been one of the key individuals at these meetings, advocating a reduction in the floodplain map.

At a Madison County Commissioners meeting on Nov. 27, Petersen reported to commissioners about how some progress was being made in reasoning with FEMA.

“FEMA is considering eliminating all floodplain areas that are in less than a few inches of water,” he said.

Petersen shared that FEMA’s current floodplain map covers every part of Madison County that would be impacted by a flood, including areas that might only see a few inches of water on the ground.

A new map removes these areas from the floodplain. Doing so would result in a floodplain dotted with large holes, which denote areas that would receive less than 6 inches of floodwater.

Such a reduction would give communities like Sugar City breathing room for commercial growth in areas that otherwise might have been required to have flood insurance.

Madison County Commissioner Jon Weber praised Petersen for making progress with FEMA officials and explained how the county ended up in this situation.

“FEMA came in and did a study on our floodplain,” he said.

“We’re looking at how we can shrink our floodplain. We’ve been working on this for a little over a year or so. Bradley has been meeting with people from Las Vegas and Seattle for a long time working on this.”

The whole issue was brought to light last year when local government officials received letters from FEMA announcing that changes were to be made regarding the existing floodplain in Madison County. The changes involved tripling the coverage area that FEMA predicted would be impacted by potential floodwaters should that kind of natural disaster occur.

Petersen will head back to Boise this Thursday to continue talks with FEMA officials and other involved parties.