Senators Weigh-In on Controversial Update to Juneau’s Floodplain Maps

Alaska’s U.S. Senators are weighing in on a controversial update to Juneau’s floodplain maps.

City officials have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay the update, citing concerns over the maps’ accuracy, as well as a lack of notice on FEMA’s 90-day public comment period, which ended Friday.

Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich Tuesday wrote letters to FEMA officials backing the city’s request for a 30-day extension of the comment period.

CBJ Community Development Director Dale Pernula says there are issues with the maps, especially around Gold and Vanderbilt Creeks.

Juneau’s floodplain maps were last updated in 1990. A FEMA consultant prepared new maps last year. Modern weather and storm data, as well as new streets, and land rebound from glacier and ice field melt put a number of new properties in areas deemed at risk for floods. Pernula says the city is concerned that Juneau residents will be forced to buy unneeded flood insurance as a result.

The Senate is currently considering reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program – set to expire at the end of September. Writing to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on Tuesday, Senator Murkowski says it’s important for her to “have confidence that the people of Juneau, and other communities around Alaska, are treated fairly in the flood insurance rating process.”

If FEMA does not grant an extension, the agency would deliver the finalized maps to the city this fall. The Juneau Assembly would then have six months to adopt them.

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Casey Kelly is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.