Lyon County Planning, Zoning and Floodplain Management hosted a floodplain map open house Thursday afternoon and evening in the William Lindsay White Auditorium Little Theatre.
An hour into the event, about 30 Lyon County residents had attended the event, with the anticipation of many more the rest of the scheduled time. Emporia City Zoning Administrator Joe Foster and Lyon County Floodplain Manager Sam Seeley even sent hundreds of personal letters to those who were proposed to be added to the floodplain map, encouraging them to express their thoughts at floodplain events and meetings.
Floodplain engineers and a handful of experts from the Kansas Department of Agriculture Division of Water Resources informed attendees on how the floodplain map adjustments may or may not affect their properties. In addition, attendees were able to discuss flood insurance with present agents. Handouts of the proposed floodplain map, flood hazard mapping fact sheets and other informational material was provided.
Floodplain mapping specialists were on-site with computers for one-on-one discussions with anyone interested in pulling up their specific property to see whether or not it was affected by the adjustments and to provide constructive feedback to specialists and engineers about the accuracy of their flood experiences on their property.
“Usually our biggest concern is, if people are getting mapped into the floodplain — what that means for them — and sometimes we might be able to look and see if that’s accurate,” Floodplain Mapping Specialist Joanna Rohlf said. “We try to make it accurate as best we can, but sometimes we can get local information that helps in refining the process.
“They learn a lot about the program, they learn about their changes, and they have time to make decisions that affect how they’re going to handle the changes that affect them before these maps become the affective maps.”
Rohlf also made it a point to remind residents that they can get flood insurance now, even if they are not mapped in the floodplain.
Jeremy Rusco with Dynamic Discs is one resident who came to the open house with the concern of the company’s warehouse on Old Highway 50 being affected by the floodplain map adjustment.
“I chose to attend because I didn’t believe that the new floodplain map revision was fully accurate to what our current and real situation was,” Rusco said. “Based on the result of our initial discussions here, it looks like those inclinations were probably correct, and an adjustment is being proposed.
“Things are going to be reviewed, and things are looking positive and optimistic that we might not be affected to the capacity or the degree that we were.”
David Shown is the owner of a lot near Dynamic Distribution and came to the open house with a similar concern. The lot he owns was elevated 19 years ago and has been in the floodplain since 2008, though he said it should not be included in the floodplain because of its elevation. The main flooding concern he had regarded a drainage problem under the train tracks going south through the county landfill.
“They cleaned a little bit of it out and pacified it a little bit, but it’s not right,” he said. “It needs to be cleaned out and done right. That’s why we flood.”
Rather than a swollen river being the main flood concern, it’s the river rising followed by a heavy rain and subsequent flood that brings Shown concern.
Shown said after his discussion with specialists that they are “going to come up with some answers.”
“Let’s see if they make any changes or even come out and survey us,” he said. “The survey would help us a lot.”
All of these comments are taken seriously and individually discussed, National Flood Insurance Program Specialist Steve Samuelson with the Kansas Department of Agriculture said.
“We’re also taking their comments back to the engineers who are making these maps and asking them to relook at them,” he said.
“It’s common for us to go back in and rerun a series of hydrology or something for a property that we think may have an error. All comments are valid.”
The floodplain map adjustments are still in the informal stages of development. Samuelson said it is less rigid to host these public discussions and online comments before the floodplain map is official.
In addition to in-person comments, residents are able to visit gis2.kda.ks.gov/gis/neosho_headwaters/ to view how the floodplain affects their property. Once the property is selected, a comment box will appear, where residents are encouraged to provide constructive feedback on the floodplain map regarding accuracy and any held concerns. Comments are being accepted until Sept. 8.