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Pembroke challenging flood zones
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The federal government has recently proposed new flood maps for Pembroke and North Bryan County, but Pembroke is contesting the changes that would spike insurance rates for some residents.
An informational meeting is from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the J. Dixie Harn Community Center in Pembroke and will give the 1,600 residents affected by the new maps the chance to learn about the changes.
According Pembroke flood plain administrator Sharroll Fanslau, the Federal Emergency Management Agency for two years has been in the process of revamping the city and North Bryan County’s 100-year flood maps, which haven’t been updated since 2008.
The most recent proposal of the maps changes the flood zone status of 1,600 properties in North Bryan and Pembroke, which could increase the flood insurance rates for homeowners.
“Flood insurance can cost you a lot and you have no choice — you have to buy it,” Fanslau said. “If you have a mortgage on your property with a home or a barn or anything, you are required by that mortgage company to have full flood insurance. And if you don’t, they will put it on there for you.”
Property owners affected by this should have received a detailed letter notifying them of the changes along with information about the meeting.
According to Bryan County Administrator Ray Pittman, only Pembroke and North Bryan areas are affected by these proposed flood maps.
“They’re (Pembroke) indicating that FEMA has identified flood prone areas and folks in Pembroke say they haven’t seen flooding there, so they’re challenging that,” Pittman said. “We’re going to have a lot of folks for the first time in flood zones because of the new remapping.”
He said although Pembroke has decided to challenge the flood maps, the fact that these homes are now in a flood zone isn’t really a problem.  
“It’s really not a problem per se, it’s just making sure the most accurate information is out there so people know they if are truly in a flood plain, so they have FEMA flood insurance,” Pittman said.
But Fanslau believes the flood zone changes could pose a problem financially for some residents.
She said mandatory flood insurance can cost $1,500 a year or more — in addition to homeowner’s insurance. The informational meeting, she said, is not only to correct any errors in the flood maps, but also to protect residents’ wallets.
“Anything that we can do that will help the citizens here and the homeowners here — not only to protect their home the right way, but to make sure that if they shouldn’t be in a flood zone that they do not have to pay this outrageous price for flood insurance,” she said. “They can still keep it if they’re worried. It’s just going to be way lower than if it was mandatory and the risk is going to be greatly reduced.”
Fanslau said the city worked with county officials to review some of the flood plains, streets and documentation from a flood that affected Pembroke in 2005. This research lead city officials to the conclusion the proposed maps aren’t completely accurate.
“There is proof from back in 2005 when we had a large flood — we have records and photos and documentation that proves some of these locations were not flooded that are now going to be in a flood zone,” she said.
Fanslau used Pembroke Place as an example and said before the flood maps were rezoned only a few homes in the very back of the subdivision were in a flood zone. But now, she said, all the homes in that subdivision are considered to be in a flood zone.
“Pembroke Place is a perfect example because according to what happened in 2005, none of the homes flooded, even though there was a little bit of backup on the roadway — most of which was is due to a drainage issue that we have that we are working with the (state) Department of Transportation on right now.
“A lot of our drainage pipe systems are old and where we might need, for instance, a 42-inch round pipe now to take care of all that area, there still may be 16- or 18-inch pipes in there from 50 years ago.”
Fanslau said the city is in process of upgrading some of the city’s drainage pipes right now to allow for better drainage. For other problem areas, city workers clean the canals on a regular basis, she said.
“We have to get folks to understand that you can’t throw your lawn trimmings, tree limbs and just general items you want to toss some place into our canals because our canals are what are draining our city,” she said.
Additionally, some folks affected by the flood in 2005 are no longer listed in a high risk flood zone, Fanslau said.
“Where the worst flood area was (in 2005) is no longer in a flood zone,” she said. “And I hate to say this because the homeowners there are no longer required to have flood insurance and are probably thrilled. But at the same time, if they don’t have it or they think they’re safe to drop it and get flooded, they’re going to lose.”
Pittman said South Bryan County will be in the next phase of flood plain remapping by FEMA, scheduled to happen sometime next year. That project will also include a 100-year surge analysis, he said, which is different than the recent analysis in the North Bryan area.
“Along the coast, flooding on the south end of the county is primarily from a hurricane or strong winds, so that is a completely different analysis,” he said. “The north end’s primary flooding source is from rainfall and has very little to do with a hurricane.”
The meeting is hosted by Pembroke and Bryan County in partnership with the state Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Protection Division and FEMA.
Fanslau encouraged any residents who have questions regarding their property and flood zone status to attend the meeting because of the high cost to address flood zones as an individual.
“They’ve agreed to let us have a public meeting before they put this into effect, which was very generous on their part,” she said. “Normally it costs quite a lot for you as a homeowner to dispute this and could take months or even years.”
For more information, call 653-4413 or 756-3177.

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