Despite recent personnel turnover, district staff assured the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors last week that they will have updated flood data to the Federal Emergency Management Agency by the Nov. 30 deadline.
At the board’s Oct. 23 meeting, Acreage resident Gert Kuhl asked about getting the flood data to FEMA. The agency’s proposed new maps put much of the area in a flood zone, requiring more expensive flood insurance.
Kuhl said that Palm Beach County Water Resources Manager Ken Todd had noted that ITID was on its own for getting data to FEMA. Meanwhile, Kuhl said he had learned that almost the entire M-1 lower basin and much of the upper basin were at stake, including about 8,000 homes.
“We need to give data to FEMA that will put those homes in the correct context,” Kuhl said.
Kuhl said he believes that the district needed to hire a consultant to help get FEMA the correct data. “What we’re looking at is a consultant on short notice,” he said. “If they don’t get it by Nov. 30, they make the decision.”
Kuhl said that ITID Engineer Jay Foy needed the leeway to hire a consultant to handle the issue.
Supervisor Gary Dunkley asked Foy what can be done to avoid new flood insurance requirements.
Foy said that about half the homes in the lower M-1 and M-2 basins are currently showing that they will need flood insurance.
“Where we stand in the lower basin is that their elevations are actually pretty good,” Foy said, pointing out that during the Tropical Storm Isaac flooding, only two homes were actually flooded.
Foy explained that the FEMA maps utilize “light detection and ranging” (LIDAR) on which to base their flood map data.
“What I had planned on was, if we can take the LIDAR data and reinterpret it so that we can get rid of all the houses except those two, we might have a shot at giving FEMA some good data for the lower M-1 basin,” Foy said.
Foy added that one consultant had told him they might be able to reduce the data to a half-foot contour rather than a 1-foot contour as the maps are based currently. “That may not help because the cost is about $7 per acre,” he said, pointing out that he is also working on getting files that take into account the shape of buildings, which might help in mitigating the flood maps.
He added that the upper M-1 basin is not on the flood maps.
“The M-2 basin is a different story,” Foy said, explaining that the South Florida Water Management District is redoing a study in which it’s correcting an error. “That may or may not help the problems in the M-2 basin, but the M-2 basin will have the same issue with some houses showing flooding and some not.”
Foy pointed out that FEMA will accept only mathematical, and not anecdotal, data. “They don’t have the funds to redo studies, so they want you to give them the answers, and if they find it acceptable, they’ll incorporate it,” he said.
Dunkley asked whether they would be able to make the Nov. 30 deadline, and Foy said if the SFWMD showed the M-2 data corrected, that problem would be solved, but reinterpreting the M-1 data would be difficult, consultant or not.
Supervisor Michelle Damone said she had brought up the FEMA map issue in the spring and had sent District Manager Jim Shallman an e-mail more than 30 days before, registering concern.
“I am the one who’s getting pounded that we’re not on top of things,” Damone said. “I suggested to the board, I know we went through a transition, the Western Communities Council is on top of this, the League of Cities is on top of it. The League of Cities has a consultant. You may want to reach out to the League of Cities consultant to see if there is any leeway there that they might help you.”
She also pointed out that the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce has also been addressing the issue.
“We’re the only ones who have been behind, and it’s been duly noted that we have been behind. We need to be on top of this,” Damone said. “There are other people out there working together. There are team meetings that we have missed, downtown with Palm Beach County through Ken Todd. That’s why Ken Todd is not going to help us.”
Foy pointed out that although he had not been the district engineer until recently, he is on the League of Cities Environmental Committee, which had met to discuss the FEMA maps, and had been in touch with Dick Tomasello, who is the county’s consultant on the issue.
“I’ve been quite tuned into this, and the recommendation that I did make to you is one that is considering all of those factors,” Foy said.
Foy also pointed out that the county had formed a flood group led by Commissioner Jess Santamaria, of which several Acreage residents are members.
“I think that we have the assistance that we need through all these people that everybody has mentioned,” Foy said, explaining that he had just learned about the LIDAR interpolation in the past week, which became the issue in the M-1 basin. “The M-2 basin, we won’t know if that’s also an issue until [the SFWMD] publishes its study. It will be released to their technical review group, which I am also on, so I will be able to look at it before the public gets to see it.”
Dunkley said he wanted to be sure they make the deadline. “That would be an economic hardship for all of us,” he said.
Damone estimated that the cost could be an average increase of $600 per home per year.
Foy said a consultant’s help might be useful in interpolating the M-1 data.
Damone made a motion to direct funds to hire a consultant through Foy to help gather the data to update the FEMA maps and reach out to the League of Cities consultant to see if the firm can take on another client. The motion carried unanimously.