Van Buren County entered its next phase of updating its flood plain map in a meeting with principal organizations Wednesday, Feb. 3. The meeting was to establish what is Phase 2 of the three-phase project which will at the least bring the flood plain map into a digital format, and possibly re-draw the potential for flooding in Clinton and the surrounding area, lowering insurance rates.

Principals in the project were representatives of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Division, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and FTN Associates, the engineering firm contracted. Mayor Richard McCormac and Linda Duncan, of Clinton and Fairfield Bay, respectively, were on the call, as was Flood Plain head Tim Clark as were others.

The meeting was conducted by Zoom call due to pandemic restrictions.

Phase 2 is where risk assessment takes place, following Phases 1’s determination of risk. The difference being the first is if there will be a flood, the second being how often. Phase 3 will be the creation of maps, which will be digital thereby allowing online access.

Assessment include the determination of areas in the 500 year flood plain, the 100 year flood plain, and so forth. Whit Montague with Arkansas Resources pointed out that the terms “500” or “100” lead to misunderstanding. She used a 100-year flood zone as an example.

“A 100 flood means you have a greater than 25 percent chance of a flood during the life of a 30 year mortgage,” she said. “Flood,” in this case, was water 1.9 feet above average.

A 100 year flood plain does not mean “flood every 100 years,” she said.

This means that the percent of probability for a home owner in a 100 year flood plain is one percent, and moves to 0.2 percent on a 500 year flood plain. Further terms come to 10, 20 and 24 year flood plains, which show water at over 6 inches, compared to the 1.9 feet of the 100 year probability.

Phase 2 is expected to be a one-and-a-half to two-year process, although FTN representative Lee Beshoner said to allow three years “to be safe.”

While this means as much as three years before an approved map will be available which can be used by mortgage providers in determining risk for a given area, the information, being digitized, should be available before final map approval. No hard-line time was given for availability.

Montague did state that as information for the new map was being tabulated, it could allow for area governments to update any necessary ordinances.

Van Buren County had its last flood plain map made in 1987, with Clinton’s most recent map in 1991. Both of these are paper-only and not available online. Clinton had an extensive flood in 1982. Officials hope the new map will reflect changes and updates to flood control in the area, in turn removing areas currently listed from flooding hazard areas.

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