The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 30, 2013

McGowan farm in dispute with county about flood rules

McGowan, county at odds over new flood regulations


There has been some debate and disagreement nationally about the accuracy of FEMA's flood maps. In some cases, according to a report by the nonprofit watchdog Pro-Publica, FEMA is reportedly updating its flood maps with data that is relatively old. Some people whose properties have beyond the flood plain are being notified that they are now in it. The Pro-Publica report includes the case where a river was mismarked, a mistake that erroneously put a family's home in a flood plain.

Blue Earth County Zoning Administrator George Leary said the data used in FEMA's Blue Earth County maps is current and accurate, although he concedes the map they're currently using is in draft form and could, in theory, change before FEMA makes it a "final" map. McGowan disputes the idea that his farm sits in a flood plain. McGowan says he has done weeks worth of research and can show that, even in the worst years, no flood waters have ever raged in the way government officials fear.

In the most recent flood event a few years ago — an event that was a “flash flood” — it took the water four days to reach the area where all the structures in question sit. And even then the water was relatively shallow or, as McGowan puts it, “knee high to a 10-year old.”

But at this point McGowan is resigned to the notion that it simply needs to get fixed, even if he has no plans to pay for it. He'll need to install a system that would kick in automatically in the event that a raging flood came through. For example, engineers can install a system that, when water pressure reached a certain point, panels on either side of the structure would open and allow water to flow freely.

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