LIHUE — Some home and business owners near the Waimea and Hanapepe rivers may have to buy flood insurance starting next year because levees on the banks of both rivers do not meet federal standards for flood prevention.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2010 determined that the Waimea and Hanapepe levees “do not provide a high level of protection and are to be de-accredited,” according to a Department of Land and Natural Resources press release.
Because the levees — originally built in the 1950s and ’60s — do not meet safety regulations, FEMA gives surrounding communities the option to participate in its National Flood Insurance Program, which aims to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures by providing affordable insurance to property owners, renters and businesses and by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations.
Kauai County Floodplain Administrator Stanford Iwamoto said Tuesday that the county was notified that the levees failed to pass FEMA standards back in 2010. Shortly after receiving that notification, the county began working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a plan to update the levees using federal funds, according to Iwamoto.
Now, nearly a decade later, Iwamoto said those plans “are still in the preliminary phase.”
“It takes awhile,” Iwamoto admitted but said “there is a plan to move forward.”
According to FEMA’s 2017 Kauai County Flood Study and Mapping Plan, the county could develop a flood risk management project through the USACE if federal funding is available but noted that that option “is unlikely for Hanapepe or Waimea.”
Representatives from Kauai County, FEMA, and the DLNR Engineering Division will be available to answer questions, concerns, and provide information on the mapping timeline and appeals process at the following community meetings scheduled next month:
w Tuesday, May 21, from 6-8 p.m. at the Eleele Elementary School Cafeteria
w Wednesday, May 22, from 6-8 p.m. at the Waimea Neighborhood Center
New preliminary FEMA Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps, showing the areas behind the Waimea and Hanapepe levees in a high-risk flood zone, and a FEMA Flood Insurance Study are available for viewing at the Kauai County Department of Public Works, Engineering Office in Lihue.
Further information on the proposed FEMA map changes, including flood insurance cost estimates and preliminary flood maps showing areas in a high-risk flood zone, can be found online at waihalana.hawaii.gov.
Caleb Loehrer can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: This story has been adjusted to reflect that buying flood insurance would be optional.