County says ‘no’ to floodplain ordinance

Mille Lacs County commissioners decided at their Feb. 5 meeting not to adopt new floodplain ordinance standards as proposed by the federal government.

The result is that landowners in floodplain areas will not be allowed to purchase insurance, the old policies will lapse, and the county is not eligible for federal grants in that area.

“Those who want to get policies will pay significantly more, if they can get them at all,” said Michele McPherson, director of the county’s Land Services Office, about the decision by commissioners.

Mille Lacs County has been part of the federal floodplain map program since 1985, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has spent the last two years updating such maps.

The maps were adopted by FEMA last September and the county had six months from then to adopt the revised floodplain standards.

The county’s planning commission voted 6-1 to recommend approval of the proposed ordinance change.

Commissioner Dave Oslin, who spoke during the public hearing at the planning commission meeting, said at last week’s meeting that he was against adopting the FEMA plan.

“I believe the federal government is overstepping its bounds in imposing restrictions,” he said.

Oslin and board chair Phil Peterson both spoke against adopting the new maps.

When no one else would make a motion concerning the request, Peterson stepped down from the chair and made a motion to deny adoption of the ordinance.

Oslin seconded the motion and it passed.

McPherson said Monday in an interview that the county will get a letter from the Minnesota DNR and FEMA saying that the county is suspended from the program.

She received a letter from the DNR last Friday saying that there are 29 policies in effect in unincorporated areas of the county.

Milaca and Princeton are their own jurisdictions and are not part of the program. And, McPherson said, Greenbush and Princeton townships will also become their own jurisdictions.

The new federal mapping put more people in the floodplain than before, McPherson said, most of them near Mille Lacs Lake.

“I don’t think they did a good job of mapping the county,” she said. “Many of the houses involved are 5, 10 or 15 feet above the high-water mark.”