Henry County being mapped for 100-year flood plain

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Henry County is on the map ? the flood plain map that is.

Thanks to a grant from FEMA following the flood of 2008, Henry County was chosen to be mapped for flood risk by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (Iowa DNR). While the preliminary map can be viewed online, it does not go into effect until the fall of 2019.

?It?s a good planning tool for us to keep people out of the flood zone in the future,? County Planning and Zoning Administrator Joe Buffington said.

Before the grant, Henry County was not on Iowa DNR?s agenda to be mapped because of the low population and overall low risk of flooding in the county. A second component led to Henry County?s mapping ? hydrologic units.

Instead of mapping counties, hydrologic units map based on regions. So, mapping the Skunk River hydrologic unit meant reaching into surrounding Des Moines and Linn counties.

The flood plain map still is in the preliminary stages with Henry County officials conversing with the Iowa DNR to ensure an accurate representation of the county. Over the next few months, Henry County will become a part of the National Flood Insurance Program, which will enable residents to buy subsidized flood insurance from FEMA. This program aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures by providing affordable insurance to property owners.

Chris Kahle, DNR GIS Lead, said it?s best for homeowners to buy preferred insurance rate policies now before the flood plain map becomes official in October or November 2019.

Bikram Shrivastava, DNR Contractor, said that the most important thing for property owners is to find out if their structure is within the 100-year flood zone. If it is near it, insurance is recommended at a reduced rate. If a home is inside the 100-year flood zone, insurance is necessary, he said.

?It?s best to be grandfathered in,? Shrivastava said.

Kahle estimated that only 10 to 15 properties are within a flood zone. Kahle explained that in the ?old times? to rebuild a structure washed away by flooding took a lot of supplies and resources. Instead of rebuilding within a flood zone, people would move uphill, which is why Henry County has a low population within the flood plain now. The last 30 to 40 years of development is when people have begun building in those high-risk flood areas.

Residents who turned up at an open house to discuss the flood plain with DNR representatives and Buffington at the Emergency Management Center on Monday, June 11 voiced that in the past they had wanted to buy flood insurance but were unable to because it was too expensive without the county being a part of the National Flood Insurance Program. Others were concerned whether they were in the 100-year flood plain.

?We want the community to take ownership of these maps,? Kahle said during the open house.

To view the preliminary flood insurance rate map visit