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Flood plain to be examined

By Staff | Jan 17, 2014

Members of Shepherdstown’s Town Council have voted to employ the professional services of GRW Engineers, Inc. for the re-delineation of the town’s flood hazard area.

The town sought the expertise of GRW Engineers after unsuccessful attempts were made to utilize the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in reassessing the town’s current flood zone.

According to flood lain project manger and part time zoning officer Harvey Heyser, FEMA’s maps have listed the center of the historic district among the state’s many flood plains, as a result of flooding believed to have occurred in the 1930s from Town Run.

Heyser said that though the town has anecdotal evidence to support the belief that flooding occurred, no flooding has been recorded in the historic in the seven decades since.

“There have only been a couple of instances ever that we know of,” Heyser said.

As a result of Shepherdstown’s flood plain status, residents and property owners located in the hazard zone are required by law to purchase flood insurance when obtaining bank loans for real estate mortgages.

Heyser said that the rise in national and regional disasters has seen an increase in rates for those insured, causing many to seek assistance from the town for relief in burdening the costs.

“Some have seen their rates skyrocket,” Heyser said.

Heyser said some have reported paying as much as $6,000 dollars a year to insure their property.

Heyser said that though the FEMA maps indicate the area- which begins near the library and runs east along the Town Run – is a flood plain, zero claims on insurance have been made.

“There have been absolutely no claims made of flood insurance,” he said.

At the Town Council meeting Tuesday evening Mayor Auxer demonstrated the town’s desire to find an explanation for the current FEMA designation.

“FEMA has not been able to show us why we have a flood plain,” he said.

Heyser said GRW Engineers has been tasked with the job of conducting a new survey of the area in question, using modern scientific methods.

In addition, the town’s consultants will research FEMA’s original findings in its designation of the flood plain.

Current FEMA maps indicating the local flood plain can be found by visiting the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security’s web site, www.dhsem.wv.gov.