Council rushing flood maps to FEMA

LIHU‘E — While some county councilmembers felt the bill could have used more discussion, a time crunch pushed their hands to pass amendments to the county’s floodplain-management code.

The deadline for the county to be in compliance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) is Feb. 26. With that date fast approaching, the council last week unanimously passed Bill No. 2816, Draft 1, which would meet FEMA’s minimum requirements.

Updated flood studies affect Hanapepe and Waimea rivers, Moloa‘a Stream and bay areas, amending property flood risks in these areas. The new maps reclassified areas behind the Waimea and Hanapepe levees as the Special Flood Hazard Areas.

These changes can affect mortgages, mandatory flood insurance and plans to build or rebuild on these grounds.

In late January, the council’s Public Works and Veteran’s Services Committee took a look at the bill, where Vice Chair Mason Chock introduced housekeeping amendments requested by the administration. As stated in prior meetings, this bill simply comes into compliance with FEMA requirements.

Then, County Managing Director Michael Dahilig said that FEMA’s concerns, which were addressed, make more specific language, rather than allowing broad coverage.

“If you look at the overall requirements we must maintain in order to have flood insurance available to our residents, there is stringent requirements,” Dahilig said.

In January, councilmember Felicia Cowden expressed concerns that certain problem areas are not addressed in the bill and the timeline.

“I’m unhappy with this,” Cowden said, bringing up issues with how the county can monitor watercourses when large developments are being built using concrete that pushes water downstream and saturates hillsides and flood narrow valleys. These are issues prevalent in areas like Wainiha.

“I don’t feel it’s going to get those elements that affect my neighborhood, the north and east where it’s wet,” Cowden said, further raising concerns that the county could have done more since last year through a hazard-mitigation plan.

Dahilig said the timeline is tighter than the administration wishes, and deliberations were cut short because of federal deadlines and the risks associated with securing flood insurance.

“If we want to maintain the ability for people that live in flood areas in this county to have flood insurance, so that they are able to then have a mortgage that is backed by a bank because there is insurance that is protecting the structure, we need to participate in the program,” Dahilig said.

“So I don’t want to give you the impression that you don’t have to pass that or else. But it is a die that has been cast, because we have the requirement to have an ordinance in this manner.”

Last Wednesday, Cowden again voiced her reservations, stating that there were issues that are neglected in this bill.

“I understand where the needs to have this go through quickly are important, and it is my strong hope … that in this existing term of the council, whether it’s this year or next year, that we work to make sure that we address the problems that have gone unaddressed or unclarified that I feel,” Cowden said.

“I want to make sure that we can actually improve and strength this floodplain management so that there aren’t typically older houses that end up being flooded.”

Councilmember Luke Evslin echoed Cowden’s sentiments that the law should be further addressed in the future.

“I’m happy to vote to approve this bill today and also recognize the need and pressing time constant here to ensure we uphold our program but also recognize at least the need to further look at our flood ordinance to ensure we’re appropriately straddling the line between ensuring a kama‘aina family can repair their homes when needed and ensure that people are not abusing our laws to rebuild homes sometimes entirely within dangerous floodways.”

Information for those impacted by the upcoming map change can visit National Flood Insurance Program website at floodsmart.gov or contact the NFIP Help Center at 1-877-336-2627.

To view the new FIRMs and to understand the effects of the revisions, visit the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ flood map webpage at waihalana.hawaii.gov/flood-maps/.

FIRMs are also available for viewing at the county Department of Public Works Engineering offices at 4444 Rice St., Suite 175, Lihu‘e, or at msc.fema.gov.

Anyone with further questions should contact interim Kaua‘i County Floodplain Manager Douglas Haigh at 241-4849 or dhaigh@kauai.gov.

4 Comments
  1. tom mccall February 14, 2021 10:57 am Reply

    I have a home in the VE zone of Moloaa built in1989. I am on the road side of the stream and have never been effected by any of the floods so I am not concerned about flooding from storms. How ever i do know I will always be at risk of a tsunami.
    My concern is for myself but also for those people who will now be required to obtain flood insurance. My wife and I are retired on social security with a fixed income. every year our premiums go up. 20 years ago it was 1,200.00 a year. Today it is close to 10,000.00 This is the standard fixed rate by FEMA. We can just barely pay it. But I can only imagine what will happen to families who will now be required to purchase this insurance. i am sure some of our residents will have to sell their homes. Most likely to wealthy investors who can afford it.
    In all the discussions i hear that take place about this this no one brings up the impact this will have on our ability to afford the insurance or any programs that can adjust the insurance premiums to ones income.
    I understand the goal of FEMA to be a sustainable program and the constant flood disasters on the mainland making this impossible but still if it means people will loose their homes if cant afford the insurance. We are talking about long time residents who have lived in their humble homes for decades.
    What is going to happen to those people who have a mortgage is they will have to secure a flood insurance policy right away. Its going to cost about 10,000 in a VE zone, the payment has to be upfront, no monthly payments. If you don’t secure the insurance your lender will insure it at a much higher rate and add the increase to your mortgage payments.
    So we need help….who in our government is willing to take up this issue and help us?


  2. No Maps February 14, 2021 11:00 am Reply

    No maps on web sires given…please add in a comment


  3. Poor leadership by the City Council February 14, 2021 11:24 am Reply

    This is ridiculous… So the council knew about the requirements and is putting undue burden on people to get insurance in less then 2 weeks (!?) because of their own ineptitudes? For sure some insurance companies lobbied here and were heard over the people who are directly and financially impacted by the redrawing… for sure the rushed and sloppy handling of this issue is solely the fault of the council and should be transparently reviewed – COUNCIL GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER!!! DO YOUR JOB OR LOSE IT.


  4. randy kansas February 14, 2021 11:31 am Reply

    “If you look at the overall requirements we must maintain in order to have flood insurance available to our residents, there is stringent requirements,” Dahilig said.

    pretty sure they are working hard and doing the best they can, but apparently good grammar is not a requirement…..

    The requirements are stringent….


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