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FEMA plans pilot program for county

Profile image for By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

Agency to gather new data on floodplains

A new Federal Emergency Management Agency pilot program may help Denton County property owners save money when it comes to floodplains.

Using a new data-gathering technique — lidar or light detection and ranging — FEMA will map floodplains and comparing them to the old maps to determine whether buildings are above the base flood elevation. If all goes well, the new data can cut costs for property owners on things such as flood insurance and applications to remove the floodplain designation from their property.

Ron Wanhanen, senior engineer for FEMA Region VI, which has its headquarters in Denton, said the pilot program involves planes flying over predetermined areas of a floodplain with equipment that shoots millions of laser pulses to the ground, and determines the elevation at a particular point based on the height of the airplane.

“This is becoming more economical to do, so there are a lot of areas that are getting this new topographic information,” he said.

Officials can compare the information to older maps that were done with less precise means, Wanhanen said.

Bennett Howell, a Denton County engineer, said if a homeowner or business owner has property in a floodplain, the owner has to have flood insurance.

“That could be very expensive based on the cost of your home,” he said.

Howell said the traditional amendment process to remove a structure from a floodplain is costly and time consuming. It requires hiring surveyors and other professionals to gather information and fill out paperwork for FEMA to review.

In a letter to the Commissioners Court, Howell noted that the lidar information would make it easier and less expensive for property owners to get flood insurance and make it easier for real estate developers to research properties prior to purchasing to determine if the land is in a floodplain.

Property owners may even be able to fill out the necessary paperwork to remove their homes from a floodplain themselves, cutting out the need and costs to bring in outside help.

“It saves money for the homeowner and makes it easier for FEMA to review. It reduces the effort on both sides,” Howell said. “And if they are taken out of the floodplain, they aren’t required to have flood insurance and that would reduce monthly bills, which is always good.”

Howell will give the Commissioners Court an update on the process next week.

BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is .