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Delegation to FEMA Officials: Update the Sioux Falls Flood Map ASAP

First delegation meeting calls for FEMA officials to make timely updates to flood maps

January 27, 2015

Washington, D.C. — 

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) today met for their first delegation meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Associate Administrator for Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA), David Miller, and FIMA’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Mitigation, Roy Wright, calling on the agency to finalize the new Sioux Falls flood plain map to reflect the levee upgrades along the Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek. In response to today’s meeting, FEMA officials committed to the delegation to follow up in writing in the next few weeks with a specific timeline for the release of the updated Sioux Falls flood map.

“Unnecessary delays to flood map updates will only extend the financial hardships on families and businesses in the Sioux Falls community,” said Thune. “I’ve been working with the Corps and the City of Sioux Falls on this project since 2008, and now that the city has held up its end of the bargain, it’s time for FEMA to work with city officials to expeditiously approve a new flood map that reflects the enhanced flood protection provided by these important improvements.”

“South Dakotans are far too familiar with flood issues, and I applaud the city of Sioux Falls for taking measures to protect its homeowners and businesses,” said Rounds. “It’s now time for the federal government to hold up its part of the agreement. I thank FIMA officials for a productive meeting with us today and look forward to continuing to work with them to protect the Sioux Falls community from unnecessary financial costs.”

“The community and taxpayers have made the necessary investments to protect homes and businesses in Sioux Falls. Now, it is FEMA’s responsibility to update the flood map so it accurately reflects these investments and protects residents’ wallets from unnecessary insurance costs,” said Noem. “We’ve been working to get this issue resolved. I have urged FEMA to work quickly to update the Sioux Falls flood map, so families and small businesses don’t have to suffer more preventable financial setbacks.”

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA began issuing new 100-year flood maps, which resulted in nearly 1,600 additional Sioux Falls homeowners and businesses being required to purchase costly federal flood insurance. In 2008, the city and the Army Corps of Engineers worked out an agreement, prompted by Thune, to expedite construction of upgraded levees to decrease the size of the flood plain by allowing the city to fund the outstanding federal cost of the project, with the potential to be later reimbursed by the Corps. This agreement led to a less costly and timelier completion of the levees, and the city has since been reimbursed by the Corps for the federal share of the project. 

Now that the levees along the Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek have been upgraded and certified, it is up to FEMA to issue a new flood map reflecting the new, smaller flood plain in Sioux Falls. Once a new flood map is finalized, many local residents and businesses will no longer be required to purchase federal flood insurance policies and others will have less expensive premiums due to the reduced risk of flooding. Without an updated flood plain map, economic development and construction along the Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek are significantly limited while developers wait for updated maps.

On September 11, 2014, Thune and Noem sent a letter to FEMA Director Craig Fugate calling on the agency to develop a new flood map for Sioux Falls as soon as possible. Today’s meeting continues the delegation’s work to push for a timely update to the flood map along Skunk Creek and the Big Sioux River.