Hidalgo County, Texas, officials are moving to block the release of an updated Rio Grande flood plain map that would force property owners to buy flood insurance.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency plans to release the map declaring most of the county a flood hazard area on Sept. 30.
Banks and other lending institutions would likely force every property owner in Hidalgo County with a mortgage to purchase private flood insurance, an expense business leaders said will make the area less attractive to developers and businesses.
County officials believe levee repairs would prevent the area from being a flood hazard. They have set aside $28 million of an estimated $125 million needed to repair the 180 miles of levee between Penitas and Brownsville, but they want the federal government to cover the rest.
“Our taxpayers shouldn’t have to buy flood insurance because the federal government isn’t living up to its responsibilities,” Hidalgo County Judge J.D. Salinas said.
Salinas and officials from Cameron and Hidalgo counties plan to meet with attorneys in Washington, D.C., next week to discuss possible legal action.
FEMA spokesman David Passey said his agency would release the preliminary map as planned.
“From our perspective, if we all know the levees don’t provide adequate protection, we feel the public needs to know the risk,” Passey said.
FEMA is already facing litigation over its flood maps in Texas. Fair Oaks Ranch, a small city north of San Antonio, filed suit last year after the agency adjusted its flood plain map in that area.
Information from: The Monitor, www.themonitor.com.
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