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Flood map may include creek homes

Up to 250 homes near Ellicott Creek may be included on an updated federal flood hazard map, requiring those Town of Tonawanda homeowners with mortgages to buy flood insurance.

Town officials announced Monday that several streets in the northeastern section of town could be included on new maps proposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Preliminary information is available at www.rampp-team.com/ny.htm.

"We don't have the definite borders yet," Councilman John A. Bargnesi Jr. said at the Town Board's work session.

Building Inspector Carl Heimiller estimated that as many as 250 properties would be affected; letters will be sent to 1,100 property owners in the area about three public open houses -- none in the town -- to be held next week by FEMA and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The first will be from 4 to 8 p.m. next Tuesday in the gymnasium of the Old First Ward Community Center, 62 Republic St., Buffalo. The second is scheduled for the same time Wednesday in the Clarence Town Park clubhouse, 10405 Main St. The third will be held April 1 in East Aurora.

Property owners in flood plains usually are required to buy flood insurance from the federal government through an agent. Such coverage adds at least several hundred dollars annually to the price of a homeowner's insurance.

Nationwide, FEMA's flood hazard maps are being overhauled as part of a Flood Map Modernization Initiative, begun in 1997, with the goal of using new techniques to create more accurate maps.

Last year, three communities in Niagara County successfully challenged new flood zone maps and had several properties removed.

FEMA's data was gathered by using a laser-guided instrument mounted in low-flying planes to measure elevations. The Town of Wheatfield and the City and Town of Lockport hired a local engineering firm to take measurements on the ground, which often showed that the land wasn't as low-lying as FEMA indicated.

As a result of those local challenges and others across the country, the Government Accountability Office agreed last summer to investigate FEMA's methods and policies. The status of that investigation couldn't be learned Monday night.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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