Flood for Thought - The South Boulder Creek Floodplain

by Osman Parvez

If you live in Boulder, you've probably grown accustomed to sirens blaring at 10am on the first Monday of every month. They are part of an emergency warning system, in place to alert listeners of a flash flood. Recently, the Daily Camera ran a story proclaiming that Boulder is the number one flood risk community in Colorado.

In August of 2007, the city completed the South Boulder Creek Flood Mapping Study. It places over 1,100 buildings and structures within a 100-year floodplain (i.e. there is a 1% chance of a flood of this magnitude occurring each year). The most recent 100-year flood in Boulder transpired in 1894. The previous study placed about 350 structures in the South Boulder Creek floodplain within these boundaries.

Let's think about the costs. Flood insurance typically runs anywhere from $200 to $2,000 per year. If your property requires an additional $2,000 of coverage, broken out into monthly premiums, the change to the flood plain could add about $160 to your bill. Will your lender require the insurance? It's required for property owners with federally subsidized mortgages and often required by traditional lenders as well. Even if it's not required, flood insurance is a very good idea.

Of course, it boils down to much more than just dollars. It's about the risk to human life. A few years ago, I attended a presentation by Justin Dombrowski, then the city's emergency planning director. He discussed the need for all businesses and homeowners who are in a floodplain to have both an action plan and a training program in place. Because people do not know what to do in the event of a flood, many lives are lost unecessarily in an emergency. And before you think it could never happen to you, recall the historic Big Thompson flood of 1976 just to the north of Boulder in Larimer County. One hundred and thirty nine lives were lost in that flood. A flash flood action plan would have saved lives.

The City of Boulder has already sent letters to property owners affected by the new floodplain. FEMA is also due to complete its review of the mapping study shortly. From a real estate perspective, if you're thinking about purchasing property and want to check whether it's in the flood plain, or just to stay informed of current flood management projects, visit the city of Boulder website.

new floodplain:
old floodplain: boulder.co.us click on layers > flood > flood zones

Research assistance: Evan

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