County to reconsider flood plain management regulations

SHERIDAN — On Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners will reconsider proposed regulations for flood plain management in Sheridan County. At their meeting Nov. 5, the commissioners rejected the regulations 3-2 because three commissioners wanted more time to address points of contention.

In the month since the regulations were rejected, County Public Works Director Rod Liesinger has proposed six scenarios for commissioners to consider that would address areas of concern.

Residents who have spoken against the county’s revised regulations have taken issue with two primary points. These include:

• A new requirement in the revised regulations that says any new development in a flood plain must be built one foot or more above base flood elevation. This includes new homes, substantial home additions and agricultural development such as corrals and fences.

• A new requirement that any applicants who wish to build near creeks that do not have base flood elevation data, also known as “A Zones,” obtain an official BFE study from an engineer. Flood Insurance Rate Maps completed in 2012 include base flood elevations along 66 miles of Big Goose, Little Goose, Goose and Soldier creeks but not other smaller creeks in the county.

One local engineer’s estimate of how much a BFE study could cost ranged from $3,000-$5,000, though the final cost is dependent on several factors including land amount and terrain and could fall outside that estimated amount, County Commissioner Mike Nickel said.

Nickel had to pay for a base flood elevation study in the early 1990s on his land and said it cost approximately $1,000 at that time.

He noted that doing the study revealed his property was not in the flood plain even though maps indicated it was.

Concerned residents also worried it was not widely known that the revised flood plain regulations apply to agricultural lands, as well.

At Tuesday’s BOCC meeting, the commissioners will consider the original resolution that was rejected Nov. 5, Nickel said. That resolution states the county will adopt new rules and regulations regarding flood plain management in Sheridan County.

The proposed changes were not included in the resolution because there are six different proposed scenarios that would require six different sets of revised regulations to be written and considered.

Nickel said the commissioners will discuss each of the options and try to come to a concensus on how they want the regulations to be revised.

“What we’ll do if there are some changes is we’ll also delay the adoption of that resolution until the next meeting on Dec. 17 in order to make the changes,” Nickel said.

It is possible that the commissioners could adopt the resolution without any changes being made, but the mindset is that they will just discuss the options and plan on approving a final resolution at their Dec. 17 meeting, Nickel said.

Proposed changes include:

1. Require development to be built at the Base Flood Elevation.

2. Require development to be built at BFE plus one foot county wide. This was staff’s original proposal and how the regulations are currently written.

3. Require development to be built to BFE plus one foot in the Code Enforcement Area and to BFE in the rest of the county.

The Code Enforcement Area is also known as the Joint Planning Area and includes a radius of county land around city land up to one mile. It is the area the city would most likely expand into if it expanded, Nickel said. Requiring BFE plus one foot in that area would comply with the city’s flood regulations and make for an easier transition if county land was annexed into the city, Nickel said.

4. Within “A Zones” require applicants to compute their own BFE data with an engineer’s study. This was staff’s original proposal and how the regulations are currently written.

5. Within “A Zones” use model regulation standards that allow the county to use historical data and available maps to estimate Base Flood Elevation, rather than requiring applicants to obtain an engineer’s study. This is how the city’s codes are written.

At this point, Nickel said he didn’t know how the other commissioners were feeling about each option. They can pick any combination of the five options, for a total of six different scenarios (pick any of options one through three and combine that choice with either option four or option five). Various options could be completely rejected, too, making for even more revision possibilities.

The new rules and regulations governing flood plain management in Sheridan County — which includes Big Horn, Story, Arvada and other unincorporated areas — were revised to comply with a Federal Emergency Management Agency requirement that new Flood Insurance Rate Maps and a Flood Insurance Study be adopted by cities and counties in order to maintain eligibility in the National Flood Insurance Program.

While revising regulations to include the new maps and flood studies, many cities and towns across America have taken the opportunity to update their flood management regulations. In Sheridan County, Sheridan and Ranchester have completed the adoption process for their revised regulations. Dayton Town Council will consider the town’s revised regulations on third reading tonight.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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