If you live along the St. Joseph River, there is a good chance you may need flood insurance. The Federal Emergency Management Agency redrew the flood plain maps recently, and for most it was no surprise. But one couple says the maps are wrong, that it would take an act of God to flood their house. And this potential mistake could cost them a lot of money.
Jerry and Nancy Sorgenfrei have lived in their river front home for 45 years.
"We sit out here a lot in the summer and watch the boats go by and watch the seasons change. It's very nice," Nancy said.
And while they live right on the river, there is a good distance between their home and the water.
"I would say about 35 to 40 feet," Jerry said.
But recently they received a letter in the mail from their lender. It said FEMA had redrawn the flood plain maps and their home is now listed in a flood plain.
"I couldn't understand why they didn't come out and look and decide," said Nancy, "I mean you can just tell by looking there is no way this house is going to flood."
County and City Building Commissioner Chuck Bulot agrees, something just doesn't make sense.
"I have to go out to verify. But from their description and my trips out in that direction. They are probably right," said Bulot, "If the water were ever to reach the height of that property, at that point on the property, you would have 35 feet of water on the opposite side which would probably go almost to the bypass."
The Sorgenfreis will need to get flood insurance if the issue isn't fixed. And they aren't the only people on that side of the river affected. Their neighbors are going through the same thing.
According to FEMA, before the official flood plain map was published, preliminary versions were made available to the public to protest. All appeals were resolved by January 27, 2010, and six-month regulatory map adoption period began on July 6, 2010. Maps for St. Joseph County went effective on January 6, 2011.
To get their home off the map, the Sorgenfreis will have to file a letter of map amendment or LOMA application. That will include compiling about 20 pages of documentation and having the property surveyed. According to FEMA, an elevation certificate is the most accurate, detailed information for that property. The county is helping the Sorgenfreis find an alternative to hiring a surveyor.
Additional information about the LOMA process and the corresponding application can be found online here:
According to a FEMA spokesperson, even those in lower-risk areas should consider investing in flood insurance; flooding can happen anytime, anywhere, in any flood risk zone.