Directors of the Brown County Water Improvement District No. 1 approved a resolution Tuesday afternoon supporting Brown County Commissioners’ efforts to have FEMA adopt a flood plain level at the 1,435 foot level around Lake Brownwood — where the district’s water impoundment easement has stood for decades.
“The resolution asks FEMA to consider accepting the data we have and use that as the best available data possible,” General Manager Dennis Spinks said. “The county is with us 100 percent.”
Spinks said FEMA is proposing using “theoretic models and assumptions” to set a flood plain when “the best available data is 77 years of history on that lake.” No flood has ever been above 1,432.7 feet during that time, and more recent readings of debris marks still visible from that event in 2002 suggest the high water mark was .9 of a foot lower.
Bill Bell, the water district’s general counsel, said a flood plain higher than the 1,435 foot easement — 10 feet above spillway level — would create a liability issue for the water district, in addition to crushing commercial and residential development not only around the lake, but also downstream in municipalities. Many existing property owners will be required to obtain flood insurance which local officials believe is not necessary.
“We’re going to have to take remedial action to release water and retain the integrity of this district,” Bell said, if a higher flood plain level is adopted by FEMA. “We don’t have the money to cover any losses above 1,435.”
He referred to news reports of a woman in the Waco area who is facing foreclosure of her home by a lender three years after she bought it because she has fallen behind on flood insurance payments. A similar situation could develop here, he said.
“We don’t have any choice,” Bell said of the decision awaiting the district if a level higher than the easement is adopted by FEMA. “We’ve got to mitigate three feet of water.”
He noted that when discussions began, FEMA was proposing a 1,443 level, and it has since bounced around, “like a ping pong ball.”
“This may be a game to FEMA, but it’s serious business to this water district.”
“This could be devastating not only to us, but also to the City (of Brownwood),” Spinks said. “It could affect commercial development big time, plus housing development. I think we will get some help from (U.S. Sen.) Kay Bailey’s (Hutchison) office. Everyone is in agreement we should be at 1,435.”
Spinks said findings a study by hydrologist Ron Morrison commissioned by the water district, the county and the City of Brownwood that concluded 1,435 is an adequate level were accepted by FEMA with the exception of data regarding spillway calculations.