Questions & Answers
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- Last Updated: March 27, 2017 March 27, 2017
Why did the City initiate the study?
The City initiated the study primarily to have a better understanding of the floodplain in North Albany in order to adequately review new development applications. The study was prioritized because of the City’s concern that an unmapped floodway existed in North Albany and posed a risk to property owners.
How old are the FEMA maps that were believed to be in error?
The FEMA maps were relatively new; however the flood profile information that FEMA used to make the maps was much older. FEMA required that the maps be adopted locally in September 2010.
Why were the FEMA maps so different from the study results?
There are several reasons why the study results differed from the 2010 FEMA maps. These include:
- FEMA’s projection of the Willamette River flood elevations across North Albany which didn’t consider the actual flow characteristics across North Albany. This is evident by the significant decrease in flood elevations (~5 feet) as floodwater falls over Highway 20 and approaches West Thornton Lake, as shown in the consultant’s model and the new FEMA maps.
- The City’s study used more detailed and accurate ground surface information. The City took advantage of LIDAR contour data as collected by the state in the fall of 2008. Additional ground surveying was also completed in all critical locations.
- Development activities, such as fill in the floodplain over the years, changed how floodwaters will flow through the floodplain.
How was the floodplain modeled for the North Albany study?
The North Albany floodplain was modeled using HEC-RAS and FLO-2D modeling software. See Floodplain Modeling Discussion for more technical information.
Given that there are significant differences between the study results and the 2010 FEMA maps, why was the City’s consultant confident in their results?
The consultant has a significant amount of experience working on different types of floodplain studies. In addition to their experience, the 1964 and 1996 flood photos provide a great resource for checking their work. These photos help to truth how the area responds to a high water event. The 1964 flood was almost a 100-year event. According to the City’s consultant the 100-year event would actually result in about an additional foot of floodwater through North Albany. Although the flood photos weren’t taken at the peak of the 1964 flood, the dates and times of the photos are noted so that correlations can be determined. The 1964 flood photos support the consultants work. Although the 1996 flood event was far from a 100-year event, aerial photos from that flood also show a different response to those flows than what FEMA would predict.
The Consultant’s model is also based on the Willamette River Gauge located on the Lyons Street Bridge in Albany. This location has nearly 120 years of recorded history and served as an important tool to help truth flow rates and river elevations.
What did the study find?
The study confirmed that there is a previously unmapped floodway through North Albany. The study also identified significant differences in the depths and extents of flooding throughout North Albany. See the maps provided on this website for additional information.
Has FEMA reviewed and approved Albany’s study?
FEMA accepted preliminary results submitted in 2012 and issued preliminary FIS/FIRM documents in late 2013. Just as the City prepared to take the final results to the community, FEMA asked for additional modeling in one area of the study. The City/AMEC completed that analysis and the results were submitted to FEMA in June 2014. In December 2014, FEMA accepted the study results and issued new preliminary flood hazard maps for public review.
During a multi-step adoption process, the City and FEMA hosted another open house on February 17, 2015. Details of the public meeting were announced in the newspaper and in another letter sent to each property in the North Albany study area. FEMA published dates for a 90-day appeal period that officially closed on October 13, 2015. Following the close of the appeal period, FEMA completed their internal review, revised flood elevations, flood extents, and flood maps. The final flood maps became effective on December 8, 2016.
What has the City done to inform and seek input on the flood map changes?
Early results of this multi-year project were presented to the community in 2011 at an Open House in North Albany. Every property potentially impacted by the study received a letter describing the project and letting them know where to find information and inviting them to the Open House. FEMA accepted the preliminary results and the City held another Open House on February 17, 2015 inviting each property owner in the North Albany study area. FEMA issued preliminary flood maps for a 90-day public comment period in July 2015. After the comment period closed, FEMA completed their internal review, revised flood elevations, flood extents, and flood maps. The final flood maps became effective on December 8, 2016.
My property didn’t flood in 1996, why should I be concerned?
The 1996 flood was not a 100-year flood event; it was less than a 25-year event. The flows in the Willamette were approximately 60% of the projected 100-year flows.
My property didn’t flood in the 1964 flood so I should be OK now, correct?
Not necessarily. The 1964 flood was not quite a 100-year event. Additionally, development activities that have occurred since 1964 will impact how floodwater will move throughout the North Albany area.
Hasn’t the addition of upstream dams significantly reduced the chances of flooding in Albany?
The addition of dams upstream of Albany has definitely reduced the frequency at which the Albany area sees extreme flood events. In fact, flows like those seen during the 1964 flood, which was almost a 100-year event by current standards, occurred much more frequently prior to the construction of the dams. The flows used today to reflect the 100-year flood flow in the Willamette take into account the addition of dams.
What impact could this study have on me and my property?
The new maps that FEMA adopts are the same ones used to determine flood insurance requirements by mortgage lenders. As a result, there could be increases or decreases in any one property owners insurance rates based on the circumstances on your property. It may also impact whether or not some properties need to carry flood insurance at all. See Flood Insurance Discussion for further information.
The study could also potentially affect future development plans on your property depending on the circumstances on any one parcel and the timing of the development proposal.
Why didn’t the City just continue to use the study as an informational tool?
The City would not have been able to reach all residents; especially as properties sell and new owners move in. New structures could also be built at elevations too low to be protected from a flood or built without adequate flood protection. This could put the current and future owners at risk during a flood. Developers would also be at a disadvantage when pursuing projects because the study results would not be incorporated in the FEMA maps, which are the standard floodplain reference tool.
Why didn’t the City just use the study to regulate floodplain development activities and not submit the study to FEMA for review and potential map amendments?
While this may have provided additional protection for newly constructed structures and other proposed floodplain development activities, we would not have been able to inform all property owners (especially as properties change hands) and would also put the development community at a disadvantage by not having the information available in standard floodplain reference materials. By submitting the study to FEMA, their review process helped “truth” the consultant’s work.
Could this study impact whether or not I have to pay flood insurance?
Yes. When FEMA amends their maps it could impact flood insurance rates (increasing or decreasing) or impact whether or not some properties need to carry flood insurance at all. See Flood Insurance Discussion for more information.
I already pay flood insurance but the study shows more flooding on my property. Could that impact my flood insurance rates?
Yes. When FEMA amends their maps it could impact flood insurance rates. However, “grandfather” provisions apply to some aspects of flood insurance policies that are kept current. See Flood Insurance Discussion for more information.
Is there anything I can do to lower my flood insurance premiums?
Yes, see the Flood Insurance Discussion for more information. FEMA has also prepared material to help you identify ways to lower your premiums. Links to two of these documents are provided below.
If we only get a few feet of water how much damage can it really do?
Each flood event is unique; however, the testimony in this link may be helpful.
What impact could this have on my future development plans for my property?
The potential impacts are different for each property and also depend on the timing of the development proposal. This study doesn’t change the floodplain development regulations in the Albany Development Code, but could result in changes to the floodplain data that would be used to evaluate a given proposal. Whether or not that has positive or negative impacts to any given development plan will depend on how the study results compare to the current FEMA mapping on any given property.
In the winter, portions of the street in front of our house flood. Will that be addressed by this study?
Who should I contact for more information about the City’s North Albany Floodplain Study?