A resolution supporting the establishment of a Lake Brownwood flood plain at the current easement level 10 feet above its spillway won easy approval of Brownwood City Council members Tuesday.
But before the vote, council members discussed at length the economic costs Brownwood and other areas of Brown County will face if FEMA sets a higher level.
“I’m thankful that we decided early on to come forth with viable new information,” council member Dave Fair said. “Hopefully we will prevail.”
When Lake Brownwood was built during the early 20th century, an easement level 10 feet above the 1,425 foot above sea level spillway was set. In the 77 years since, no flood has topped that mark
FEMA is wrapping up a nationwide process of evaluating flood plain levels, but due to budget limitations it is using existing data in its research. FEMA officials have proposed a number of different levels – all above 1,435 – based on studies which local officials have said aren’t relevant to setting a flood plain.
The City of Brownwood, Brown County Commis-sioners and the board of Brown County Water Improvement District No. 1 commissioned a new study by hydrologist Ron Morrison, but FEMA has questioned a key conclusion that could mean it will set a flood plain at 1,438.
“We’re not setting a number arbitrarily,” City Manager Bobby Rountree said, pointing out that consideration has been given to protecting the public from flooding without setting the level unnecessarily high. “We’ve looked at all the data that’s been gathered plus 77 years of experience at the lake.”
“This is one of the most important things Brown-wood has faced,” Mayor Pro-tem Darrell Haynes said. “If the flood plain is set higher, a lot of Brownwood residents will find it difficult to sell their homes. The cost of flood insurance could be the one thing that will kill the deal.”
Haynes said he recently received the bill for his own home’s flood insurance, and it has doubled since the first year he bought it.
“I got the statement last week and I was shocked,” Haynes said. “I have no choice, since I used it once. History shows that the highest (a flood at the lake) has ever been is 1,432. I think that this is extremely important to the citizens of Brown County and the City of Brownwood.”
Council member Jerry DeHay said the 1,435 foot level is a number that can be defended by scientific data.
“The arbitrary number is the number FEMA wants to set,” DeHay said. “Every study and the experience of history points to the fact that the current 1,435 level is adequate. I’m pleased this has been such a united effort with the City of Brownwood, Brown County Water Improve-ment District and Brown County. This will have significant ramifications not only at the lake, but throughout the county and city.”
The other two entities have previously approved similar resolutions.