FEMA suspends flood map reviews for Yuba, Sutter, Colusa counties

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May 25—Starting on July 1, the The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will suspend processing two types of flood map revision requests in 38 California counties, including those in the Yuba, Sutter and Colusa counties.

The "pause," FEMA said, will affect requests for Letters of Map Revision Based on Fill (LOMR-F) and Conditional Letters of Map Revision Based on Fill (CLOMR-F). Officials said the suspension will remain in effect until FEMA formally consults with the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

"As part of these consultations, FEMA will evaluate the potential adverse impacts of issuing LOMR-Fs and CLOMR-Fs on identified threatened and endangered species and their habitats in California, particularly anadromous fish. Anadromous species include salmon and similar fish that spend their adult lives in the ocean and spawn in fresh water," FEMA said.

The federal agency said it will continue to process new LOMR-F and CLOMR-F applications received on or before June 30.

"Requests to reopen CLOMR-F and LOMR-Fs, closed due to inactivity, must also be received before June 30. New requests received after June 30 will not be processed and applicants will be notified," officials said.

FEMA said the processing suspension will not affect the sale of flood insurance or most flood map changes.

Officials with Sutter County, which has the highest percentage of land affected by federal floodplain designations that restrict the type of development that can be done in the county, said these suspensions will not have an impact.

Neal Hay, director of Development Services for Sutter County, said the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency (SBFCA) developed the county's updated flood map. The Sutter County Board of Supervisors adopted that map on Sept. 14, 2021, "as the best available floodplain information for our county" effective Oct. 4, 2021.

"It had dramatic effects upon the Yuba City basin since it lowered the base flood elevation by 2-6 feet," Hay said in an email.

Hay said the county has not received an LOMR request associated with a project nor has the county requested a LOMR. He said those types of requests require a localized engineering study of the floodplain and what could be done to bring property out of the floodplain, which is typically done through importing fill dirt.

"For example, if the residential development on the east side of Sutter had been in a floodplain, say 2-3 feet deep, it may have been worth it financially for the developer to have his design team develop a LOMR if they could show that by adding dirt, and confirming the integrity of the Wadsworth Canal levees, they could bring their property out of the floodplain and make it eligible for development," Hay said. "The process requires an engineering study to FEMA standards and then review by their agency, so it can be time consuming, (ie. years), and the development potential for the property must be able to absorb the cost of the necessary improvements."

Hay also said that SBFCA's levee accreditation package and standard LOMR will be submitted this summer and the agency is not affected by FEMA's suspensions. He confirmed that FEMA's actions are targeted at LOMRs that require fill, as opposed to LOMRs associated with levee improvements.

Other counties affected by the FEMA suspensions include: Alameda, Butte, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Merced, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, Trinity, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta, Stanislaus, Siskiyou, Tehama and Yolo.

FEMA said it also will continue the existing suspension, effective August 2020, in these six counties: Los Angeles, Orange, San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura.

"Thus, a total of 38 counties containing designated critical habitat for listed anadromous fish in California are affected," FEMA said.