The period where cities, developers and residents are able to appeal and comment on proposed new flood plain maps has been pushed back to 2018.
According to a city of Dripping Springs press release, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA will begin its 90-day appeal period for its new flood maps in February 2018.
The projected start of the appeal period allows more time for the community and officials to gather comments after the fall and winter holiday season, according to the release. FEMA had planned to start the appeal process in October or November.
The delay will also allow FEMA and the community a chance to further discuss the remaining project timeline and share information with stakeholders, the release said.
The appeal period could be a critical time for those who find their land in the proposed flood plain map. Some could see a loss in land value and could be required to buy flood insurance.
Tom Pope, Hays County Floodplain Administrator, said the three appeals he has received thus far appear to be valid.
Once FEMA investigates the protests and incorporate any changes, the maps are expected to go into effect fall 2018.
Even though the most recent map has an effective date of 2005, the last approved flood plain map was in 1998, he said. The 1998 map dates back to the 1980s when field work was completed, Pope said.
When the map was presented to the community in 1993, the county appealed it and five years later the map finally went into effect.
“In 2005, FEMA really didn’t change anything; they just renumbered it,” he said.
For some areas in the county, the flood plains have increased significantly due to flooding that’s taken place over the past five years.
Just north of downtown Buda, elevation of the flood plain went up about four feet.
The Blanco River near Wimberley has seen a 3-foot increase in the flood plain, Pope said.
He doesn’t expect many complaints coming from Wimberley since “they’ve seen for themselves the water, especially during the 2015 floods.”
The huge increase in development in the area also creates changes in the flood plain, Buda Mayor Todd Ruge said.
There is far more impervious cover, or more asphalt and concrete, covering what was fields and natural areas that previously would have absorbed the rainfall, he said.
There is difficulty in predicting where the water will flow, he said.
“You build in one area, but it could affect another side of town,” Ruge said.
In Dripping Springs, the proposed map affects portions of the historic downtown and newly constructed areas that were considered safely out of the flood plains.
Dripping Springs city engineer Rick Coneway said he finds the proposed FEMA map to be more conservative than accurate.
“This can seriously impact the growth and the development of the city,” he said.
He added the new map may affect development if large portions of land are now considered to be in the flood plain.
Coneway cited developers could contest one area north of U.S Highway 290 and west of Highway 12 added to the flood plain.
He recommended the Dripping Springs City Council contest one portion of the Triangle that’s in the new flood plain. That area includes the old Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, the city’s veterans memorial.
In Buda, Ruge said the current council has no plans to appeal the map, and hopes for quick approval by the county.
Not having a finalized flood plain map has meant that a drainage project to alleviate flooding due to high construction in the area, set as part of the 55 million dollar bond passed in 2014, will be on hold, Ruge said.
He said the delay of the appeal process for the maps is a double-edged sword.
“We want to make sure the maps are right but on the flip side of that, we are ready to get started . . . we need to get our project done sooner than later,” he said.