Update: This story has been updated to include a link to the draft flood zone map. Please note this map contains known errors. The DNR is working with the city to correct the errors.
More Spencer residents could need to purchase flood insurance to cover their homes once the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is finished updating the flood zone map covering the city.
Spencer Planning Director Kirby Schmidt on Monday told the city council that he’s been working with the DNR, which recently sent a draft of the map to his office.
Schmidt said that on Monday the city received a letter from FEMA stating a 30-day comment period on the proposed may started November 28.
“There’s quite a few areas that were in that aren’t and then there’s some areas that weren’t in that are,” Schmidt said. “It appears they raised the elevation initially about a foot. So, a lot of people that were out might be back in again.”
A draft version of the map is available, but as Schmidt noted to the council, it contains some errors. The DNR is working on making those corrections, he said.
“After some discussion with me, they discovered they made an error, so I immediately contacted the DNR and asked when do the corrections get made because we have our comment period,” Schmidt said.
Councilman Bill Orrison asked Schmidt what the process is going to be for homeowners who aren’t currently in flood zones but soon could be.
Schmidt said he’s not yet sure about the process.
“Most likely, if (the property is) in, they’re going to have to buy insurance again,” he said.
Schmidt said the DNR has indicated it will have public input meetings.
“So, hopefully, during this approval process, they’ll have a meeting here and we’ll be able to invite concerned citizens,” he said.
Schmidt told the council he’s concerned about the DNR raising the flood zone elevation a foot.
“It’s going to affect a lot of people,” he said. “Because Spencer is so flat, a foot is everything.”
Councilman Ron Hanson asked to Schmidt to keep the council informed as to when people need to come out to any meetings.
“It is a big cost to people when they have to start buying that flood insurance,” he said. “It’s getting very expensive.”
Schmidt added that the DNR may not be wrong to increase the elevation.
“The real problem is, of course, we’ve had two really major flooding events this year and, when you start looking at it, we were in a couple feet of ‘53 twice this year,” he said. “So, they’re getting more frequent and higher. So, it may not be wrong about raising the elevation.”
Feature image: The Little Sioux River flooded in Spencer this September. The National Weather Service reported the river crested at just under 7 feet above flood stage in Spencer.