New floodplain regulations were implemented in Montezuma County Jan. 13 to comply with higher standards established by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Colorado adopted rules to provide increased floodplain management standards in order to help communities prepare, plan for, respond to, and mitigate the effects of future flood damage.
The main change for the county, explained community services director James Dietrich, will be for critical facilities. If in a designated flood plain, those structures must now be built 2 feet above the base-flood elevation instead of the previous 1-foot standard.
Critical facilities include hospitals, schools, nursing homes, daycare facilities, power stations, and government/public buildings.
Building regulations for non-critical facilities in the floodplain did not change from the 1-foot over the base-flood elevation. Also, there were no changes to the county floodplain boundaries.
Montezuma County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program regulated under FEMA. The county is obligated to enforce the minimum standards of the NFIP or face sanctions.
“If we do not comply with the minimum state and NFIP standards, we will be suspended from the program,” Dietrich said.
A suspension would result in sanctions including: no federal mortgage insurance in flood hazard areas; no resident may purchase flood insurance; existing flood insurance polices will not be renewed; loss of access to federal grants; and no federal disaster assistance for repairing buildings in flood hazard areas.
The new standards are part of the county land use code.
For construction in a designated floodplain zone, Montezuma requires certification from a licensed engineer, surveyor, or architect, which includes an elevation certificate and a stamped form that describes how the minimum standards are being met.
The information is kept on file for inspection by FEMA officials or the state of Colorado.
A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. to decide the action to be taken regarding property owner Grant Smith’s failure to submit floodplain certification for two structures along the Dolores River.
According to the county, Smith’s workshop and gazebo-style deck are within the floodplain and have not been certified to be in compliance with the flood plain standards.
“There was no floodplain development certification submitted as required because it is within the floodplain zone,” Dietrich said.
Mitigation measures are possible to bring structures into compliance with county and state standards if they do not meet the one-foot above floodplain standard. Solutions may include raising the structures, engineered berms, added foundation slabs, or flood vents that safely route water through the structure. But the measures still need an engineer to sign off on them.
Mitigation signed off by a licensed engineer is preferable to variances, which raise a red flag to regulators, Dietrich said.
“Complying with floodplain standards is really important for builders because they are at risk for being liable,” he said.
In June, county commissioners granted Smith a variance for the deck for violating a rule requiring structures be 100 feet from the river. He was fined $1000.
A floodplain map is available at county offices. Other areas that fall into designated floodplain include the Dolores River, Westfork Creek, Simon Draw, Hartman Draw, McElmo Creek, Mancos River and Lost Canyon.