Sugar Land adopts new flood maps and drought policies
By Betsy Dolan
Nine years after the process began, the City of Sugar Land has voted to adopt new digital flood insurance rate maps that offer more detail for better land use planning but put some homes in the 100-year flood plain that weren’t there before.
Sugar Land and Fort Bend County worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on creating the new maps. It’s part of a nationwide effort by FEMA to re-map the country’s flood zones. FEMA manages the National Flood Insurance Program.
The re-mapping in Sugar Land, which started in 2004, focused on areas around Oyster Creek and the Brazos River.
“We did have a number of issues here in Fort Bend County and the appeals process lasted for a few years”, said Shashi Kumar, City of Sugar Land Senior Engineer.
One of those issues involved The Orchards, The Estates at Oyster Creek, Belknap/Brookside and Alkire Lake where the re-mapping showed some homes were in the 100-year flood plain.
The city held public meetings in 2010 to inform residents about the new maps and possible changes to their flood insurance policies.
Areas the city had targeted for development, like the Imperial site, were also shown to be in the 100-year flood plain. In addition, 8 levees had to be raised after the maps revealed higher than expected base flood elevations along the Brazos.
“Because this process took so long, development was occurring at the same time the maps were being done and the pieces needed to jive together”, Kumar said.
Developers and the city anticipated the changes brought by the new maps and infrastructure projects have been built to alleviate problems, Kumar added.
Councilman Steve Porter asked what options were available to homeowners who learn their homes are now in the 100-year flood plain.
Kumar said that they can hire an engineer who can determine if the home is at or above the base flood elevation and submit the report to the city.
Homeowners can access the county’s web site for an interactive digital flood map to determine where their home stands in the event of a 100-year flood.
Amended Drought Contingency Plan
Sugar Land also made changes to their drought contingency plan to meet requirements from House Bill 3604 passed last September.
HB 3604 specifies that public water suppliers must implement drought plans when the governor announces drought declarations in their county. The purpose is to get water suppliers to act early to avoid water shortages, said Colleen Spencer, Sugar Land’s Water Conservation Coordinator.
To comply, Sugar Land has added a fourth stage to their existing three-stage drought contingency plan. When the governor declares Fort Bend County is in a drought, the City of Sugar Land will implement Stage 1 which means a voluntary 2-day a week irrigation schedule for residents and a voluntary irrigation schedule for non-essential water uses.
The city can also trigger Stage 1 if the water capacity is low or when the city manager deems it necessary.
Stage 2 is triggered when water supplies are at 65% capacity and involves a mandatory 2-day a week irrigation schedule for residents and a voluntary reduction for non-essential water uses.
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