AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Flooding throughout Amarillo has caused residents to question how land is deemed a flood plain.
According to the Director of Capital Projects and Development Engineering for the city of Amarillo, Kyle Schniederjan, Amarillo is part of the National Flood Insurance Program, which is regulated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“One of the requirements of participating in that program is that bodies of water that are inside our boundaries get mapped and there’s a statistical flood boundary that gets established for each of the bodies of water,” said Schniederjan. “It’s typically called the 100-year floodplain. It can also be considered a 1% chance, one divided by 100 is 1%. So, there’s a 1% chance that that body of water will reach the level that is mapped in any given year.”
According to a spokesperson with FEMA, flood maps show a community’s risk of flooding.
“Flood maps are snapshots in time designed to show minimum standards for floodplain management and the highest risk areas for flood insurance,” said FEMA spokesperson. “They are not predictions of where it will flood and they don’t show where it has flooded before.”
Flood maps are updated by FEMA regularly, every five years, or if a community official request a revision.
“Maps are updated on a continuous basis, based off an individual community’s need,” FEMA Spokesperson. “While FEMA is required to update a flood map every five years, community officials can submit scientific or technical data to FEMA to support a local flood map revision at any time.”
FEMA spokesperson continued, “Flood maps are dynamic and do need to be updated, but the age of a map does not necessarily reflect its accuracy. FEMA reassesses the studies behind each map every five years to see if the engineering data and hydraulic and hydrologic models that were used to create it still meet current engineering standards. Areas that need to be updated are identified in a process that is coordinated at the regional level with State and local partners. “
According to Schniederjan, flood plain boundaries are highly regulated.
“Anything that gets developed inside the floodplain has to have an equal and opposite offset,” said Schniederjan. “So that that regulatory boundary doesn’t change. The model that establishes our 100 year floodplain for the city of Amarillo, is called a post development model.”
Under the post-development model, there is an assumption that everything contributing water to that boundary had already been developed. Including, accounting for added asphalt or rooftops, according to Schniederjan.
Schniederjan shared that Playa Lake Seven and Martin Road Lake both had mapping revisions due to projects being completed in the area.
“The city took on a project to put in Arden Road to the out to the new loop and so we put in storm sewer pipe and associated improvements with Arden road,” said Schniederjan. “The pipe literally wouldn’t come out of the ground once we put it under the ground to collect the stormwater under the street.”
From there the city lowered the bottom of the lake and did in excavation in Playa Seven.
“That excavation, lowered the regulatory floodplain by about 1.7 feet,” explained Schniederjan. “If we had not done that excavation, statistically the water level out there right now would be 1.7 feet higher than it currently is. The water level was reduced by that excavation.”
Schniederjan continued, “we also just did a project over on Martin Road Lake where about 150 structures, homes, businesses were removed from the floodplain because of the work we did on the lake.”
When land loses floodplain designation, flood insurance may not be a requirement.
“All that really means is that your bank or your loan holder is not requiring you to have that coverage,” said Schniederjan. “It does not preclude you. It doesn’t keep you from getting coverage yourself. Maybe your loan company just isn’t going to require it. But you can go get private insurance. It should be at a dramatically reduced rate than what you were paying when you were in the floodplain.”
In regards to Playa lake seven, only a small portion is considered city property. Including a park at the Southside of the Greenways, according to Schniederjan.
“The rest of the property of the lake are private property owners,” said Schniederjan. “So, there is no maintenance of that private property by the city. The regulatory boundary is established and by participating in the NFIP and then the authorities that are given to us by the state, we’re allowed to regulate development inside that 100 year boundary.”
The city of Amarillo participates in a regional flood planning program where they are able to network committees and discuss plans, regulations and compare similarities in land.