Following pressure on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from the delegation at a January 27, 2015, meeting, U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) received a timeline for the release of the updated Sioux Falls flood map. According to the February 5, 2015, letter, FEMA will provide a draft of the updated flood map along the Big Sioux River and Skunk Creek by June of 2015. The letter also outlined FEMA’s plans to issue a letter of final determination in the spring of 2016. Once the flood maps are finalized, most impacted homeowners who wish to cancel their flood insurance will likely be eligible for a refund of their annual flood insurance premium.
“The draft flood map due in June of 2015 should provide more certainty for commercial developers in Sioux Falls,” said the delegation. “For too long, developers have been sidelined due to the financial hardships associated with building in the flood plain; however, the draft maps should provide guidance for what the new flood plain will look like and allow construction to get underway. We will continue to urge FEMA to approve a new flood map as quickly as possible, which will ease the financial burden on homeowners in the expanded floodplain.”
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 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 by the Corps, 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. The January 27, 2015, meeting continued the delegation’s work to push for a timely update to the flood map along Skunk Creek and the Big Sioux River.