Homeowners to benefit from county’s new flood plain survey

While a property may be located in part on a flood plain, the structure itself may be above it. By surveying structures with such potential, those homeowners could end up saving big on flood insurance.

The Lycoming County planning department initiated its letter of map amendment project, funded by state Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement funds, to do just that.

The county contracts with Vassallo Engineering and Surveying Inc. to survey properties, at $300 per property, and help determine which parts are located in the flood plain. That contract will go before the county commissioners Thursday for renewal.

“Essentially, what we’re doing is helping people be able to afford flood insurance,” said Fran McJunkin, deputy director of planning.

Chunking together properties to be surveyed is the goal. Recently, homes in Jersey Shore, Salladasburg and Little Muncy Creek have been part of the program.

An elevation certificate gives site-specific elevations of the property — first floor, basement and highest and lowest grades next to the house.

“If the lowest grade next to the house is above the base-flood elevation, we then can process it through (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to get a letter of map amendment,” she said. “The property owner will get a letter saying, ‘This structure is not in the flood plain.'”

In regards to homes with basements, McJunkin added:

“If the lowest spot next to the house is above the base flood elevation, the structure is effectively not in the flood plain and there are no basement rules. If the ground next to the house is below, even by a tenth of an inch, then the basement counts.”

Because basements are “voids, empty space,” flood waters can build enough pressure to blow them out, she said.

The project does have income qualifications for potential participants. Someone outside of the qualifications still can have their property surveyed, but they will be responsible for the bill. It can’t go through the county program, McJunkin said.

They then can work with the county to process the survey results with emergency management for a potential letter of map amendment.

While the county works to update mapped flood plains, McJunkin encourages property owners to still strongly consider getting insurance, particularly with the “weird storms” the county has experienced recently.

“I would recommend anybody who’s anywhere close to a mapped flood plain to buy flood insurance,” she said. “If you’re not in a flood plain, it’s very affordable.”

The commissioners also will consider awarding purchase agreements for rental equipment to nine different companies on behalf of Resource Management Services, renewing an agreement with Dr. Pat Bruno to provide expert consultation for the district attorney’s office, providing up to $85,000 in grants to outside agencies as budgeted and more.

The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in Executive Plaza.