FAIRHOPE — City officials are looking at ways to mitigate flooding that has affected some developments along Cowpen Creek for several decades.Eric Cortinas, city building official, said …
FAIRHOPE — City officials are looking at ways to mitigate flooding that has affected some developments along Cowpen Creek for several decades.
Eric Cortinas, city building official, said flooding has been a problem in the Fairfield Place subdivision along Booth Road since the 1990s. The latest flood maps produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency have designated the area as a flood zone. That designation could require homeowners to buy flood insurance.
"One of the issues we have is because they were built prior to there being a flood zone designated there, there was no required floor elevation at the time," Cortinas said. "So, now that it's a flood zone, all of these property owners are receiving notices from their mortgage companies stating they have to buy flood insurance on a house that was originally built that was not in a flood zone."
At a Fairhope City Council work session Monday, Nov 14, Cortinas said one possible way to alleviate the problem would be to improve a drainage ditch along Booth Road that would allow water to flow through the area more efficiently. He said a first step would be for the city to apply for a grant from FEMA to conduct a study of the situation.
"That's just a very narrow ditch where water comes through," Cortinas said. "The thought is if we can get a study done of the water that comes through there, shape this ditch line where it actually carries the water and is able to keep those levels down,"
He said reducing the possible level of flood waters could be a better solution than elevating buildings along the drainage area.
"If we can get a study done that shows that by doing that, we're reducing the elevation of the floodwater, we can potentially remove many of these houses from the flood plain, which is exactly what FEMA would love to see happen with mitigation money," Cortinas said.
The ditch is on private property in the subdivision. Councilman Jack Burrell said he has received several complaints about flooding along Booth Road. He said, however, that if the city pays for a study in one subdivision, neighboring property owners might also expect municipal assistance.
"If we alleviate the concerns of the people in Fairfield Place that's in the flood zone, what's that going to do to the retention pond at Fairfield Place? What's that going to do to Spring Lake? What's that going to do downstream from there? Are we opening up Pandora's Box and then all of the sudden, we've got to fix a 5-mile corridor of water," Burrell said.
Cortinas said property owners in most other developments in the area have not reported as many problems with flooding as have residents of Fairfield Place. He said the updated flood maps will also require anyone building in the future to conform to new requirements.
"Going forward, if someone proposes a subdivision around this, we're going to know we have a flood zone here," Cortinas said. "When you're designing this, you need to pull these houses back, you need to get these elevations up. We're prepared to handle it from a planning standpoint now, which they were not prepared to do when the subdivision was originally built."
Councilman Jimmy Conyers said he supported helping residents, but that the responsibility for the property should remain with the private owners.
"I'm all for helping alleviate this issue," Conyers said. "I would love to see this get corrected. I just want to make sure that if we order this study that we're not somehow accepting responsibility for this situation."
Public Works Director Richard Johnson said city officials have told property owners that they will be responsible for the system.
"We're going to participate in solving this problem, but the ownership and responsibility for maintenance still will stay with you," Johnson said.