Mat-Su approves new building requirement for flood zones

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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) At Tuesday’s Matanuska-Susitna Borough assembly meeting an ordinance amending the rules for building in areas susceptible to a 100-year flood was approved.

“They see a beautiful piece of land and they fall in love with it and it’s in a flood plain and it’s good for people to know that there are these options they can build in a flood plain if they want to but if they want to keep their house it’s better to build higher,” said Assembly member Jim Sykes whose district includes portions of the Matanuska and Kink rivers.

The ordinance requires a two-foot free board requirement for new construction and major remodels.

“It’s a boating term referring to the space between the water and the top of your boat that shouldn’t be getting wet,” said Mat-Su Borough Development Services Manager Alex Strawn.

In this case the rule requires the lowest floor of a home be built two feet above the 100-year flood level. The proposal comes after a 2014 FEMA remapping project that identified problems with the current flood insurance rate map in use in the Mat-Su.

“We had water running up hill, we had high bluffs that were in the flood zone and so we decided that that needed to be changed,” said Strawn. A more detailed map is set to be adopted in the fall of 2018.

“We are sticklers about the rules for development in a flood zone and if we’re going to be sticklers about the rules we’d better have accurate maps,” said Strawn.

Strawn says although the requirement would add to construction costs, homeowners would have reduced flood insurance payments. “…the return on investment averages about 5 years,” Strawn said.

The ordinance takes effect on July 31 of this year.

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