The Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent their second set of follow-up questions regarding a flood study that started a year ago. The responses to those questions could cost Greenwood County as much as $30,000, which would bring the total spent on the study to $100,000.
Joint city/county planning director Phil Lindler gave council the estimated cost for a response during their administration and finance committee meeting on Tuesday. Council is expected to discuss the issue further and vote on whether or not to pay the additional $30,000 to continue the study.
Greenwood County contracted with HDR, Inc., a global engineering and consulting firm, in Oct. 2012 to dispute flood elevation maps set by FEMA. Many residents of Greenwood County were required to obtain flood insurance as a result of the new flood elevation maps, which came out in Sep. 2012. The intent of the study is to lower the flood elevation in order to give relief to property owners in Greenwood, Laurens and Newberry counties, according to Lindler. Lindler said that flood insurance would be going up 25 percent each year for the next 10 years and those inside of the flood elevation boundary would be required to pay those premiums to the federal government.
HDR submitted a proposal to FEMA on behalf of Greenwood County to reduce the flood elevation around the lake in February. The cost for that proposal was $60,000. FEMA sent a response asking for more information, which required the county to spend an additional $10,000. The response to the first inquiry from FEMA was submitted in May. FEMA responded with more questions and the county must respond by Nov. 26. The cost of that response is estimated to be $30,000.
County engineer Larry Smith told council that, basically, FEMA is increasing the study area. Smith said that studies similar to the one being conducted by HDR have a certain study area and data beyond that study area is estimated based on the data obtained inside the study area. HDR initially used data obtained in a separate study on the Buzzards Roost Dam project to lower the amount of calculation – and cost – in the flood study, but, Smith said, FEMA wanted hard data unique to the flood study.
County manager Toby Chappell said that he contacted Congressman Jeff Duncan’s office to speak to FEMA on behalf of the county.
“We have already talked to Congressman Duncan’s office and had him talk to FEMA, basically saying, ‘Come on guys, this is getting ridiculous. You can’t keep coming back to us,’” Chappell said. “Their response was that they were going to ask questions and when they get the information they want, we will be done.”
All members of council appeared frustrated with the amount of time and money the study was taking and even more frustrated that there was no foreseeable end in sight.
“We originally had $60,000 then they came back and asked for $10,000,” said councilman Steve Brown. “Now they want $30,000 more. Where is it going to end? It’s an unknown out there. It’s an unknown to us sitting on council it has certainly got to be an unknown to the public. Seems to me like somebody ought to come and give us an indication of why we need this additional money and why the initial $60,000 wasn’t enough.”