FEMA study may be in error

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By John Barnhart

A recent study by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), that moved a thousand parcels to a higher flood risk zone, may have been in error.

After suspicions arose that there were errors in the FEMA study, the board of supervisors authorized the county to pay a consultant to check the FEMA data. The consultant Anderson and Associates, a civil engineering firm from Blacksburg, would have an advantage that FEMA didn't ? new state topographical maps that became available only two months ago. The new maps use 10-foot contours, rather than the 20-foot contours in the maps available to FEMA, which makes them more precise. In addition, the newest of the maps that FEMA had available were 25-years-old and George Nester, the county's director of community development, said that the technology to make topographical maps has improved in those years.

FEMA has already reevaluated its study results in the Smith Mountain Lake area and concluded that there were errors and reduced the size of the flood plain.

"Our consultant has confirmed that," Nester said.

Nester believes that the county has enough information on errors in other areas to convince FEMA to redo its study using the new topographical information. The county's comments to FEMA, which are expected to trigger the new study, have to be postmarked by July 15 to meet FEMA's deadline for comments, but Nester is comfortable that his office will meet the deadline. In addition, he said that a number of individuals and homeowners associations have sent comments to FEMA and this will bolster the county's contention.

"I think we have a solid case to present to them," Nester commented, noting that he believes the federal agency will do a new study.

"In defense of FEMA, they have been very cooperative," Nester said.

The FEMA study lists an additional thousand parcels as being in a flood plain.