What Sugar Land’s attempt at secrecy uncovered on a flood insurance rate map

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What Sugar Land’s attempt at secrecy uncovered on a flood insurance rate map

On October 16th this blog released multiple pages of documents related to homeowner flood insurance rates, the establishment of a flood management task force and a 2014 FEMA flood map adoption process –documents the City of Sugar Land fought unsuccessfully to hide from the public—and ONLY obtained after the City was admonished by the Open Records Division of the Texas Attorney General Office to release the responsive material back in December 2015.

Today we are releasing a previously unpublished, one-page document from the responsive material that the City of Sugar Land and the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council fought hard to keep hidden from public view.  Additionally, we’re releasing copies of flood insurance rate maps for two areas in Fort Bend County—Riverstone and Sienna Plantation Municipal Utility District #1 —obtained from public sources.

(photo credit: Creative Commons Clipart)

What was uncovered on these flood insurance rate maps may surprise you.

First the previously unpublished document.

Dated Wednesday March 5, 2014 the minutes of a Board of Directors meeting of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council revealed additional information about a FEMA Map Adoption Process that took place in 2014.

If you thought only the engineers of the County and the County Drainage District were involved in approving the new flood maps back in 2014, you might be surprised to learn 39 flood administrators/ districts in Fort Bend County were required to approve the new 2014 flood maps.

Item 3 on the meeting minutes document read:

“Richard Stolleis, County Engineer, FBC Engineering Department and Mark Vogler, Chief Engineer, FBC Drainage District updated the board on the status of the current map adoption process. The requirement to maintain FEMA flood insurance requires Flood administrators in a county to adopt maps by a certain date. In Fort Bend County’s case the date is April 2, 2014. Richard Stolleis indicated that there are 39 flood administrators/ districts currently in Fort Bend County required to approve the new flood maps. Of the 39, 20 have completed approval. There are 19 that remain pending or in process. Richard also indicated that before April 2nd, all districts should be approved. This is for informational purposes only.”

We then obtained copies of flood insurance rate maps for Riverstone and Sienna Plantation Municipal Utility District #1 covering the Riverstone and Sienna Plantation communities of Fort Bend.

Why?

We wanted to see what those maps looked like and what information published on them might be of interest to homeowners in those areas. Especially those residents in the Millwood neighborhood of Riverstone.

All five pages of the Riverstone and Sienna MUD #1 flood insurance rate maps we legally received contain a note which reads:

Note 1: This area is shown as being protected from the 1 percent annual chance or greater flood hazard by a levee system. Overtopping or failure of any levee system is possible. For additional information, see the “accredited levee note” in notes to users.

And in the lower left corner of all five pages is the following “accredited levee note to users”.

FIRM Map – Riverstone and Sienna MUD 1 – 2014 maps

The accredited note reads:

Check with your local community to obtain more information, such as the estimated level of protection provided (which may exceed the 1 percent annual chance level) and Emergency Action Plan on the levee system (s) shown as providing protection for areas on this panel. To mitigate flood risk in residual risk areas, property owners and residents are encouraged to consider flood insurance and flood proofing or other protective measures. For more information on flood insurance, interested parties should visit the FEMA website at http://www.fema.gov/business/nfip/index.shtm.

Another note on the FIRMs discloses the following:

These maps are used for administering the National Flood Insurance Program. It (they) do not necessarily identify all areas subject to flooding, particularly from local drainage sources of small size.

This is what the City of Sugar Land’s attempt at secrecy led us to uncover on a flood insurance rate map.

BTW, the next meeting of Riverstone Fort Bend LID #19 is Tuesday December 12th. This is for informational purposes only.

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