Changing the floodplains - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Changing the floodplains


Baraboo (WKOW) -- The DNR unveiled new floodplain maps for all of Sauk County Tuesday.

These updated maps could have major implications for people living near rivers and lakes. Since 2003, the DNR and FEMA have been working on redrawing the floodplain maps all over Wisconsin. They say everyone -- from homeowners and builders, to lenders and insurance agents -- will benefit.

Flood waters have long receded from neighborhoods along the Baraboo River. Homes that were inundated in June have dried out. Yards that looked like ponds now have grass growing again.

But the DNR says more intense flooding could happen again, in places outside the established flood plain, making those documents obsolete.

"Most of the original maps were done in the late 1960's and early 1970's," said Meg Galloway, with the Wisconsin DNR. "Since that time, the landscape has changed. There's a strong belief that some weather patterns and flooding patterns have changed. There's been development."

FEMA and the DNR are modernizing the floodplain maps, using better technology to pinpoint the risk of flooding. The old topographic maps were vague, black and white, and hard to read. The new colored, digital maps allow people to zoom in to their property, and see with much greater accuracy, whether or not they're in the flood plain.

"It has extended a little bit further from what it was originally, mainly because of the summer rains, excessive rains we had this summer," said Tom Broughton, Town of Westfield chairman.

The new maps will allow cities and towns to change their growth and development laws, and warn residents about the chances of flooding.

"It will allow them to know what risk there is on their property, whether they should be buying flood insurance," said Galloway.

These flood plain maps are not set in stone yet. Residents still have a chance to appeal if they believe their property is incorrectly marked. When the maps are finalized, local governments will have six months to incorporate them into their zoning laws.

Fifty-four of the state's most populous counties will have new flood maps within the next few years. If local governments don't adopt the new floodplain maps, people who live there will not be eligible for flood insurance -- which is almost always purchased through a federally subsidized program.

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