Officials from the city of Lodi and San Joaquin County will talk on a regular basis during the next year to see if federal authorities can trim some of the area where property owners would be required to purchase expensive flood-control insurance.
County officials will do some survey work in Woodbridge and adjoining areas to check elevations, to see if homeowners can be relieved of having to pay more than $1,000 for flood insurance every year, said Steve Winkler, the county's deputy public works director.
Winkler and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency explained FEMA's proposed flood plain designation to nearly 200 people at a special Woodbridge Municipal Advisory Council meeting Thursday night.
FEMA released a preliminary map that places almost all of Woodbridge, the northwest corner of Lodi and acres of farmland west of Lodi that is generally between Turner and Peltier roads, on a flood plain.
Flood insurance is such a hot issue because of the devastation flooding can bring to property, said Jonathan Bartlett, a FEMA map modernization specialist.
"They're a lot worse than fires," Bartlett said. "(Floods) destroy a whole community."
Steve Winkler, the county's deputy public works director, told residents that the map designating Woodbridge and northwest Lodi as a high-risk flood area doesn't actually show who is really in danger of being a flood victim.
"These are insurance rate maps," Winkler said.
Property owners within the proposed new flood plain area could end up paying $2,462 annually for flood insurance if they buy their policy after the final FEMA map is adopted in April 2009, Winkler said. They can pay approximately half that amount if insurance is purchased before the final FEMA map is adopted next year, he said. And for one year, people who purchase insurance early can pay only $317 for the first year.
FEMA and county officials came up with some information that residents didn't know before Thursday's MAC meeting. They include:
• That the Del Rio neighborhood off Woodbridge Road is exempt from the high-risk area on the preliminary map. That's because the developer of the Del Rio subdivision hired a licensed engineer to certify that the levees would protect the homes, Winkler said.
• That the proposed flood plain extends far beyond Woodbridge and the northern section of the Park West neighborhood of Lodi. The map shows the high-risk flood zone extending generally through farmland west to Interstate 5.
• Lodi west of Lodi Lake and south to about White Oak Way in Park West.
• West of Lodi to roughly Interstate 5, between Turner Road north to the Mokelumne River.
• A narrow stretch north to Kile Road between I-5 and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, just east of the freeway.
Source: Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Woodbridge area is projected to be in the high-risk flood zone, if for no other reason than that the levees along the south bank of the Mokelumne River were not certified by a licensed engineer or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, according to county and FEMA officials.
Woodbridge resident Aaron Devencenzi said that Del Rio is probably 10 feet lower in elevation than anywhere else in Woodbridge, making it a greater flood risk than other neighborhoods.
It could be cheaper in the long run for property owners to tax themselves so that the county could shore up levees and have them certified by FEMA, Winkler said. While it would cost property owners to have the levees improved and certified, he said, it would probably be cheaper than high-risk flood insurance.
Lodi insurance agent Kevin Dejong said after the meeting adjourned that he is confused as ever.
"They keep changing their mind," Dejong said of the county and FEMA. "We can't even guess what the price will be (for insurance)."
Local insurance agents advised property owners to ask their agent if their insurance company sells flood insurance.
Winkler said he is willing to speak to local service clubs about the preliminary flood zone designations. He can be reached at 468-3031.
For a complete map of the proposed high-risk flood plain boundaries, visit http://www.sjgov.org/pubworks.