By RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
NEW BOSTON — Village Administrator Steve Hamilton told members of New Boston Village Council on Tuesday evening the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be visiting Feb. 23 to begin the village and city floodwall de-accrediting process. He explained the process could take up to a year, and as long as the village and city have completed their repairs before it is finalized, they can avoid full de-accrediting.
Hamilton said the village expects to have a complete floodwall report by April 1, and assured Council the repairs will be made before the de-accrediting process is final.
“I’m very confident. When they came through and talked about the wall, they said it was the best and strongest that they’ve seen in this Ohio River Valley,” he said. “The village and myself are doing everything possible to get this wall accredited.”
In the meantime, Hamilton said the wall is strong and there is no immediate danger to residence.
“Ever since that wall has been up, the only flooding we’ve had has been backwater flooding from debris that has clogged the tubes. There hasn’t been any flooding from the Ohio River,” he said.
FEMA had originally imposed a deadline of April 15, 2011, for both the Village of New Boston and the City of Portsmouth to complete maintenance and repairs on their flood systems. Because the floodwall is shared by both the village and the city, FEMA warned that if either one failed to the complete the project, both would be de-accredited. Neither the village nor the city met the FEMA deadline last year, and both are still working to complete the repairs within their allotted 18-month grace period.
The village last year was extended a $400,000 line of credit by US Bank to pay for the studies and repairs, and AMEC engineering began work over the summer. AMEC is also working with Portsmouth.
If the floodwall is de-accredited, every property owner in the city and village will be required to purchase their own flood insurance for much higher rates. Hamilton said some village residents have called him complaining that their insurance rates have gone up already — some as much as 60 percent.
“The local banks aren’t the ones saying anything right now. It’s these lending companies that are outside saying that the maps are going to be changed and the floodwall is going to be discredited, so (they are) going to raise your rate,” Hamilton said. “Anyone that has a mortgage, the banks can pretty much tell you you have to have flood insurance. But if you own your house that’s your own property and you don’t have to have flood insurance.”
He said the village hosted a series of public insurance meetings with FEMA to present the community with options that would have allowed them to purchase lower-rate insurance in advance of the floodwall de-accrediting. He said almost nobody showed up. There will be another public meeting in the near future to allow residents another opportunity to purchase insurance. The date of the meeting has not yet been announced.
Portsmouth Wastewater Director Richard Duncan said he has not yet heard of any insurance increases inside the city, and said he doesn’t believe these insurance increases are related to the current de-accrediting project. He said the city will have its project complete before the floodwall is de-accredited, and they will share their progress with FEMA during their meeting on Feb. 23.
“We get our chance to tell them where we’re at and how confident we are; where we are and what we still have left to do,” Duncan said. “I am very confident about Portsmouth’s part.”
He said FEMA officials will tell the village and city what the de-accrediting process is, and how they can get back on the path to accrediting the floodwall.
“In general, everything was acceptable in our system except for one particular area, which was under-seepage from the river back into the city at certain elevations of the river. We’re getting a second opinion on that particular issue, and the engineer is pretty far along. It’s not final yet, but we feel like things are looking positive and in the next month or so they’re going to do some additional drilling to get samples of the structure of the levee. Everything so far is very encouraging,” Duncan said.
As long as the village and city each complete their projects before the new floodplain maps are redrawn later this year, the wall will not be de-accredited and the maps will not change, and insurance rates will not be expected to increase.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.