Mat-Su Borough officials planning update to flood zone maps

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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU)- At last week's Mat-Su Borough Assembly meeting, new flood zone maps were introduced for the first time in decades. In 2012, FEMA and the borough began work on the largest flood zone remapping project in the United States. Re-visiting and revising the current flood zones designations have taken over six years to complete. Officials say the problems with the current maps older maps are the result of using old, inaccurate data and taking uncharacteristic events like the 1971 glacial lake flood at Granite Creek into account.

"They based the floodplain maps on that flood because it happened, but it’s not an event that’s likely to happen again," Borough Assembly Member Jim Sykes told KTUU before last week's meeting.

The new plans will see more than 1000 houses moved out of what is currently considered as part of the borough's floodplain, however, a little more than 100 homes currently listed as sitting above the floodplain will be considered inside of the flood zone as well.

According to the Borough's Development Services Manager, Alex Strawn- new technology and new data have allowed the borough to rethink the strategies used in mapping the valley to create a more accurate, and much smaller, floodplain.

“When FEMA mapped our flood zone back in the '80s they were very liberal with the marker that they used to make the flood zone," he said. "They didn’t have very good data so they erred on the side of caution. Now that we have very good, high-resolution data ... the floodplain is shrinking.”

Figures from the MSB Planning Department estimate that re-mapping the flood zones to a more accurate layout could save residents nearly $12 million dollars in insurance payments over a 15 year period. First, the assembly must approve the new plans at its August 20th meeting. If passed, the new mapping system will go into effect on September 27th.

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