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City corner: Flood insurance makes sense for all

Feb. 27, 2011 at 5:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 26, 2011 at 8:27 p.m.


By O.C.Garza

I do not live in a floodplain or near a creek or river and my home has never flooded. Do I need flood insurance?

Last May 15 is a classic example of why every homeowner should consider flood insurance. In less than five hours, 9 inches of rain fell on north Victoria. Hundreds of homes were damaged by the flooding and many were not in a floodplain or near a creek or river.

Most homeowner insurance policies did not cover any of these damages. The best recommendation is to talk with your insurance agent about your specific location and any history of flooding.

Victoria and other parts of Texas are prone to heavy rainfall events similar to the downpour of last May. Because we are very close to the coast and at a low elevation, heavy rainfall events can cause water to backup into streets, yards and homes.

Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program in 1968 to help provide a means for property owners to financially protect themselves. The program is administered by FEMA. The program offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters and business owners if their community participates in the program. Victoria does participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Something else to consider is that FEMA is updating the floodplain maps in Victoria County. If you live near a creek, river or floodplain, you will want to watch this process closely. If your home gets moved into a floodplain by the new FEMA floodplain measurements, flood insurance would be less expensive now than at the rate offered if your home is in the floodplain.

According to FEMA, during the last decade, the average flood claim has increased to more than $33,000. Flood insurance is the best way to protect yourself from a financial loss, since most homeowner policies do not cover damage caused by floods. Websites with good information about the NFIP are: www.floodsmart.gov and www.fema.gov/business/nfip/.

I am confused about easements. Who owns easements?

Easements are for the public good and every neighborhood benefits from them. As you know, easements are typically granted by the developer of a subdivision to allow companies to provide electrical power, cable TV, telephone and Internet services.

Easements also allow a municipality to run water, sewer and, in some cases, storm sewers to a subdivision. It goes without saying that without easements, we would not have many of the creature comforts we have become accustomed to.

In most easements, the city does not own the property; the property owner does. All the city has is an easement to put water and sewer lines under your property and to restrict what goes on top of those lines in case they need to be repaired. We maintain those underground lines, but the property owner has to maintain their property above the ground.

It is rare, but sometimes the city has to buy actual property for a major infrastructure project. We had to buy some parcels of land to widen Sam Houston Drive. These purchases were not just easements for underground utilities; these were purchases of true land that affect a property owner's boundary lines. We try to avoid purchasing real property, but to widen Sam Houston Drive, it could not be avoided.

Transactions like Sam Houston are rare. Most city easements are granted to allow us to run underground utilities, but we do not own the property, the property owner does.

Send your questions and comments for any city department or activity to City of Victoria, Public Information Office, P.O. Box 1758, Victoria, TX 77902, or pio@victoriatx.org.

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