New Floodplain Maps Will Impact County Property Owners

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is rolling out new floodplain maps for the Great Lakes region and the Door County Planning Department is trying to notify affected landowners.

The department estimates approximately 120 property owners will be required to obtain flood insurance when the new maps are finalized within the next two years. Other property owners may see their flood designation change from one type of zone to another. But there are also large portions of the county that will be taken out of the current floodplain zone maps.

“A lot of the county that is currently mapped as being in floodplain is not going to be mapped as being in the floodplain anymore,” Planning Department head Mariah Goode said. “A lot of properties that have been paying flood insurance for the last eight years may not have to any longer.”

In 2012, the Pulse reported Fish Creek businesses, including Wild Tomato and Nor Door Sport and Cyclery, were limited in their ability to expand because they were placed in the floodplain zone along the creek. The businesses had to pay thousands of dollars for flood insurance. Under the new draft maps, both of those businesses are taken out of the zone.

The maps are part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is voluntary but comes with some nice perks. Counties that adopt the program enforce the floodplain maps and their associated regulations, and in return property owners can get federally backed flood insurance.

Michelle Staff, floodplain management policy coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said flood damage is not covered by traditional homeowner’s insurance and lenders require flood insurance for high-risk properties before issuing a mortgage.

Staff said the hurricanes affecting Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico have shed new light on the program.

“We’re trying to manage development in high-risk areas and have construction practices to reduce flood losses and the high costs associated with flooding,” Staff said.

The biggest change in the new draft maps is the introduction of the VE Zone, which is a new floodplain designation focused on how wave velocity can affect coastal properties. Once the maps are adopted, new structures built in the VE Zone will need to be built higher than the base level where wave action poses a flood threat. Whatever mechanism is used to raise the structure above that elevation level must allow water to pass through it, such as stilts or breakaway walls at the foundation.

The department has identified approximately 120 properties in the county, not including the city or villages, that fall under this new VE Zone. While there are provisions for grandfathered structures, newly listed properties owners will be required to purchase flood insurance.

“It’s weird that all of the sudden my house has been there for over 100 years and all of the sudden now it’s in a flood zone,” said one of the approximately 30 people at the department’s informational meeting on Jan. 15. “There’s never been a danger.”

The county also received funds to conduct floodplain studies on the three inland lakes in the county:  Europe, Clark and Kangaroo. The properties around these lakes do not have studies or data on their susceptibility to flooding, resulting in high flood insurance rates. The new studies will provide more accurate data, which will help narrow the scope of affected properties and could result in cheaper insurance rates. After the final maps are published in 18 to 24 months, individual property owners and municipalities will have 30 days to appeal the new floodplain zones.

The draft maps are available at under “Link to Door County Draft WorkMap” or at the county planning office. Residents of the City of Sturgeon Bay and villages of Ephraim and Sister Bay are encouraged to check with their zoning administrator regarding the potential changes. The coastal floodplain maps do not include any portion of the Village of Forestville.

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