Jim Wells County one of 300 counties receiving help from FEMA

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Jim Wells County Correspondent

Jim Wells County and City of Alice leaders agreed to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to produce an updated digital flood map for the county during a joint meeting of the city and county at the JWC Courthouse Tuesday.

FEMA representative Howard L. Hilburn, along with consultants Elizabeth Brown and Tonya Edwards, made a presentation on the project during the special county meeting.

As part of Region 6, which includes five states and more than 500 counties, Hilburn said the push has been to update the maps used by those entities when it comes to flood considerations.

Jim Wells County is on a list of 300 counties in Region 6 currently receiving mapping assistance from FEMA. The project is free to the county and utilizes information previously gathered from the county, plus any additional studies of the land conducted since the last maps were created.

The entities in the county also have the opportunity to add their input during the digital map process. Orange Grove City Administrator Rick Lopez was also in attendance at the meeting. No Premont officials were at the meeting.

County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz, of Premont, was present, along with the commissioner's court.

Alice Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez and Interim City Manager Ruben Maldonado, along with Assistant City Manager Sara Wilson and city engineering consultant Pete Anaya were present at the meeting.

The goal of the project is to map 95 percent of the populated areas and 65 percent of the total land area. The creation of the Digital Flood Insurance Rates Maps could take as long as 24 months, but Hilburn said he expects the process to take 18 months.

Both Saenz and Hilburn said it is rare for a homeowner to have their property enter a flood plain or be removed from a flood plain after a new flood map is accepted. Hilburn said during the presentation that at times, the variation between the old maps and new maps are often a matter of a few feet.

"There might be a few, we don't know for sure," Saenz said, concerning the number of homeowners who may be included or excluded.

Jack Graham, the representative with FEMA Region 6, said if a home is removed from a flood plain, no mandatory flood insurance may be required.

"Those homes added after the mapping would be considered as prior to the maps coming into existence, and the mortgage company could call for flood insurance," he said.