City proposes updated flood plain map

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Feb. 9, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 9, 2012 at 8:10 p.m.

Preliminary flood plain maps for the Lone Tree subdivision could remove about 400 homes from the list, resulting in huge savings on insurance premiums.

The new maps are a result of the Lone Tree Creek Channel Improvement and Detention Facility - a $10 million project funded through general obligation bonds in 2000 and completed in 2009.

Victoria's Development Services Director John Kaminski said the project's intent "was to improve drainage and remove a lot of existing homes from the flood plain."

The bulk of the homes removed from the flood plain is in the Inwood Terrace neighborhood, north of Miori Lane and west of Lone Tree Creek.

Rosalie Hiller, 64, is hopeful the flood plain map will be approved so she can cancel her flood insurance.

She and her husband purchased their home in 1975, and although it backs up to the creek from Seguin Avenue, they never purchased flood insurance until January 2011.

Hiller said it is a "sore subject."

"We just had our kitchen remodeled," she said. "All these years we've never had it, then we were forced to get it."

She said she talked to the bank, her insurance agent and city staff, but because the house "technically was in a flood plain" they had no other option.

Not only did she have to purchase insurance, she had to redesign her dream-kitchen.

She wanted to extend it four feet in the backyard, toward the creek, but to do so, she was required to raise it three feet, she said.

A year of flood insurance on her home cost $899, she said. The sooner the new maps are adopted, the sooner she can get a refund on insurance she said she does not need.

"It's never flooded, even during hurricanes when we've had the 12, 15 inches of rain," she said. "The most we've seen at our back fence comes into the yard a foot or two and goes down immediately. As soon as it stops raining, it's gone."

Annie Margaret Clapsaddle, 80, who lives nearby, said flooding is not a problem in the area.

"I voted for it (the bond) because some of the neighbors would be affected," she said.

She and her husband moved to the neighborhood in 1989. Once the house was paid off, they dropped their flood insurance.

They talked to the neighbors, whose homes had never flooded, and decided it was not worth the expense, she said.

"We've had some flooding, never in the house, but up to the sidewalk just about every time we had a hard rain," she said.

Sam Gonzales, 72, who lives in the middle of the subdivision on Alamo Drive, said he never had issues with flooding, but, like the Hillers, was required to purchase flood insurance when trying to get a loan in the early 2000s.

Joe Hoefer, 83, of Victoria, said the last time he saw the creek flood was in the 1960s.

Hoefer, a retired industrial arts teacher at the former Memorial High School, a few blocks down the road, said it was just part of a wet season.

"The biggest part of the flooding was in the parking lot on the north side by Liberty (Academy)," Hoefer said. "Next to the athletic office, the water probably got 12 inches deep in the parking lot. Out in the middle, it was probably two feet."

He said it was "comical."

At the time, he was hosting an industrial arts exhibit for his students' projects.

"It didn't get up in the field house, but it did get on the parking lot; it was just real deep in water," he said.

A survey of about 19,000 residents in the mid-1990s identified three major flood areas: the Northcrest subdivision, behind the former Town Plaza Mall and along Lone Tree Creek.

Because of rapid growth near the creek, the original detention facility had become too small for the amount of development upstream, Kaminski said.

"The bottom line is the drainage basin needed additional capacity," he said.

This project included improving the drainage channel from John Stockbauer Drive to Airline Road as well as the construction of the detention facility between Airline Road and Houston Highway.

Flood Plain Administrator John Johnston said the creeks, now wider and deeper, are what reduces the size of the flood plain, while the "Big Ditch" allows water to be stored and slowly released so it does not negatively impact downstream.

"Not only does it take those properties out of the flood plain, but by creating capacity in that channel, it also allows undeveloped properties a place to drain and develop without negatively impacting those existing property owners along that channel," Johnston said.

In a limited number of areas, the flood plain actually expanded. These areas include a few homes in the Tanglewood addition and some commercial properties along U.S. Business 59.

The expanded flood plain may be the result of advanced survey technology compared to what was used in the original survey in the mid-1980s. The bridge structure on U.S. Business 59 and the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge may also be a factor by limiting the flow of Lone Tree Creek, according to a memo about the project from Kaminski to the city.

This improvement is designed to handle a "25-year storm" while the flood plain boundary represents a 100-year storm, meaning there is a 1 percent chance of a storm that severe happening in a year, Kaminski said.

A 90-day appeals and protests period on the proposed map ends in March. After that is a 180-day final publication period. The maps are expected to be adopted in November or December, Kaminski said.

Property owners may not see benefits to flood insurance requirements or rates until after the 180-day final publication period.

The city avoided some cost by partnering with Texas Department of Transportation on the project. The transportation agency paid for the disposal of the materials, which it used in overpass projects along Loop 463, Johnston said.



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