Dry Creek may get new flood designation

Becky Campbell • Oct 16, 2012 at 10:03 PM

Residents in Dry Creek might soon have a new designation for their community that will establish criteria for protecting homes from another devastating flood like the one in August, according to local zoning officials.

It’s called Zone A Flood Hazard Area, a specific designation that indicates the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not studied the flood potential issue but local authorities have targeted it as an area that could flood based on its history.

The new designation, which will be up for approval by the Washington County Commission next week, would create building restriction criteria in the zone but also allow homeowners a better opportunity to obtain more affordable flood insurance.

Flood insurance in this flood hazard area will be required of all residents who live there, officials said. Also, new construction must have the first living floor and the HVAC unit at least 3 feet off the ground.

“When we went down there and saw the devastation, it was immediately clear to use we needed to do something,” said Mike Rutherford, Washington County zoning administrator “This is about as good as we can do.”

Rutherford and Troy Ebbert, zoning planner and inspector, said they encountered many Dry Creek residents who said their insurance company would not sell them flood insurance.

The result of that is dozens of residents are out thousands of dollars because of uninsured damage from the Aug. 5 flood event.

“This will make them eligible for flood insurance and it will be more affordable,” Rutherford said.

Ebbert said it’s important for the county to get the new regulations in place before new homes start going up.

“Almost everybody we’ve talked to said they were going to rebuild higher anyway,” Ebbert said. “We’ve not had any objections” to the proposed new building requirements.

The chance of a similar flood occurring again in Dry Creek are very slim, Ebbert said.

“Based on the amount of rain, it was a 500- to 800-year event,” he said. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen sooner.

“You could have three in one year,” he said.

“The intent of the flood resolution is to prevent loss of life and property,” he said. “We’re lucky no one died in this.”

Walter Crouch, president of Appalachian Service Project which will handle the home construction funded through the disaster reconstruction program of Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati, said the flood resolution requirements won’t have a significant impact on building costs.

“We’d already planned on putting all the homes ... above 3 foot,” he said.

ASP hopes to have a building permit in hand within the next few days to start construction on the first replacement home in Dry Creek.

At least one Dry Creek community resident has already started rebuilding his home and, according to Ebbert, plans to have a two-story structure with the living space atop an above-ground garage and basement.

Ebbert said sound structures in the flood area that are being repaired won’t have to adhere to the 3-feet requirement.

In addition to the home rebuilding, the county is also moving forward with remediation to Dry Creek, which burst over its banks and rerouted itself during the flood.

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