New flood maps

A flood-control project in Cape Girardeau that has cost taxpayers $40 million is finished. But many residents are still paying for flood insurance they don't need.

Jackson is the fastest-growing city in Southeast Missouri, adding housing and business developments every month. But insurers still use maps from the 1970s to decide whether homeowners need expensive flood coverage.

It's a situation costing residents of both cities countless dollars, and it doesn't have to be this way.

Both cities are moving to make a change. Now they need the federal government to help them along.

Jackson has hired an engineering firm to produce an up-to-date map. It's the culmination of two years and $180,000 worth of work funded by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Not only did the engineer uncover many changes in Jackson's flood plain, he discovered several mistakes in the original 1970s maps currently used to determine the need for flood insurance. Under his new maps, several homes in the Rosewood Subdivision would be taken out of the flood zone. And more homes and families will be protected when the corps uses the maps to decide where to build basins in the northern Hubble Creek watershed to help prevent future flooding.

In Cape Girardeau, the $40 million Cape LaCroix Creek/Walker Branch flood control project was completed last year. It works -- a fact everyone sees when the concrete valley next to Kingshighway is full of water and the Town Plaza parking lot isn't after a rainy afternoon.

The corps has contracted with a St. Louis firm to gather flood plain information to replace that gathered for Cape Girardeau in the 1980s -- the basis for flood insurance requirements still today. Corps officials say they'll have the information by January.

The new maps, business owners say, could save them thousands of dollars annually in flood insurance.

However, there is an 18- to 24-month time frame for getting the maps to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and obtaining approval to change the official flood plain. FEMA is trying to redo maps across the nation, administrators there say, yet there's only one engineering firm contracted to check the details in new maps submitted to the agency.

That situation is unacceptable. Why should residents have to pay even an extra dollar for insurance coverage they will never use just because the government is slow to respond to their needs?