Costly flood insurance threat reduced

Last week Mayor Steve Conaway and Mayor Pro Tem Cecilia Cuevas achieved significant progress with FEMA over proposed new floodplain regulations that may have required most Fillmore homeowners to purchase costly flood insurance.

In a conference call held September 18 that included Fillmore, County and other local officials, FEMA agreed to the removal of a new flood zone designation that would have covered most of Fillmore. On May 30 FEMA published a draft Flood Insurance Rate Map that if adopted next year would have required most Fillmore homeowners to purchase flood insurance at a cost of about $100 per month.

FEMA had two reasons for the proposed flood zone designations. First, FEMA asserted that an automatic, mechanical flood gate was needed in the Sespe Creek Levee gap for the railroad cut-through. Second, FEMA proposed to negate the entire two miles of the Sespe Creek levee due to floodwaters expected to encroach onto the levee’s freeboard in a major flood.

In the conference call, Mayor Conaway and Mayor Pro Tem Cuevas gained concessions from newly appointed FEMA Region 9 Engineering Director Kathleen Schaefer to allow the continued use of the aluminum stop logs in the railroad cut-through of the Sespe Creek Levee instead of requiring installation of an automatic flood gate, provided that documentation and analysis be provided to FEMA to support that adequate and timely installation procedures are in place for installation of the stop logs.

With regard to FEMA negating the entire two miles of the Sespe Creek Levee due to encroaching floodwaters at the Hwy. 126 bridge, Director Schaefer indicated that she would allow the Ventura County Watershed Protection District to apply to provisionally accredit the Sespe Creek Levee. This will allow another year for submitting an engineering analysis to determine more accurately how much of the levee may be accredited and what portions, if any, will not be accredited until a retrofit is completed.

With these new concessions from FEMA, Mayor Conaway says he “is optimistic that when the revised FEMA maps are released the number of homes required to obtain flood insurance will be reduced by 80 percent or more”. Mayor Pro Tem Cuevas indicated that the “draft floodway through the western half of Fillmore should now be removed because FEMA has agreed to acknowledge the stop logs in the railroad gap and the sufficiency of the upper portions of the Sespe Creek Levee.” If the floodway had been adopted, homeowners in western portions of Fillmore could not have been allowed to make room additions, finance their homes, or be issued building permits on empty lots.

Fillmore Public Works Director Bert Rapp said he is “pleased with progress made by Conaway and Cuevas, but there is still at least a year or two of hard work ahead of us with FEMA to resolve the possible flooding issues ”I am confident all of the areas of Flood Zone A can be eliminated so no one will have to purchase flood insurance,” Rapp said.