Levee plans, flood-plain risks focus for Tuesday meet
By Sondra Murphy
Valley residents with concern about floodplain maps and flood insurance ratings will have the opportunity next week to be updated on the area’s status.
Supervisor Steve Bennett has arranged to have the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s California regional engineer attend a public meeting Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Matilija Auditorium, 703 El Paseo Road.
The meeting will cover topics of interest to property owners in or near floodplains or levees, including how existing floodplain maps and flood insurance ratings were established, as well as FEMA’s process and schedule for updating floodplain maps for the Ojai Valley.
The potential decertification of the Live Oak Acres Levee and how new floodplain maps might affect properties near floodplains will also be discussed. The purchase of federal flood Insurance and how to reduce flood risk and a flood insurance rating will be included in the topics of discussion.
FEMA has been in the process of certifying flood protection levees nationwide. A recent study ordered by FEMA has determined that the Live Oak Acres Levee along the Ventura River, originally constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, cannot be certified as meeting FEMA’s new standards. This means that FEMA will likely include more than 100 properties behind the levee in the mapped floodplain.
FEMA is in the process of remapping the floodplains of the Ojai Valley. A letter from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors was mailed out Monday to residents near the Live Oak Acres Levee who are or may be impacted by the decertification. “FEMA is currently updating their estimate of the flows in the Ventura River and it is possible the 100-year floodplain area behind the levee could be larger when that study is complete,” the letters read. “FEMA’s current schedule shows study completion at the end of 2009.”
Besides 106 properties expected to be redesignated into a floodplain, 127 others may be affected by the remapping. “The big part of this meeting is the decertification, but all areas will be addressed,” said Bennett.
In other parts of Ventura County, the FEMA updates have resulted in expansion of mapped floodplains. Property owners in floodplains are generally required to purchase flood insurance by their mortgage lenders and are subject to floodplain construction regulations.
“While we will be working hard to find funding for reconstruction of the Live Oak Acres Levee, this meeting is an opportunity for local property owners to hear directly from FEMA management,” said Bennett. “They can learn the regulations that apply to their flood insurance rating and learn about purchasing federal flood insurance. People who live in floodplains, near creeks or behind levees can benefit by attending this meeting.”
Numerous levees nationwide cannot be certified and many local governments are attempting to lobby the federal government for money to upgrade those levees. The about $140 million Matilija Dam removal project already in progress may assist the efforts to rebuild the Live Oaks Acres Levee. “The Matilija Dam removal is already an approved project,” said Bennett. “The project is in better shape because of the Matilija Dam removal.”
Bennett said within a year to a year and a half, FEMA will have a new study done and the floodplain designations could change.
Nine levees in Ventura County have been identified by FEMA as trouble spots; two in Districts 1 and 4, one in Districts 2 and 5, and three in District 3.
“This is affecting every supervisor in the county,” said Bennett. “For the Ojai Valley, this is a significant situation.”
For more information and to view the Ventura County Watershed Protection District FEMA Levee Certification Project map, go to vcwatershed.org/levee.