Despite numerous complaints from north Scottsdale residents about flooding, flood insurance rates are declining here after a federal study credited city staff with superior flood plain management.
Scottsdale recently scored the best in Arizona and in the best 5 percent of cities and counties nationally in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program, which assesses flooding risks, according to a recent statement from Ashley Couch, city stormwater management director.
The FEMA program lowered Scottsdale’s flood management rating from seven on a 10-point scale to six, one being the best.
Scottsdale property owners are expected to save more than $700,000 annually on their flood insurance premiums because of the adjusted rates.
Nearly 8,400 flood insurance policyholders in designated special flood hazard areas will see flood insurance premiums, previously discounted by 15 percent, now reduced by 20 percent, said Bill Erickson, senior Scottsdale stormwater planner.
Most of the hazard areas lie in Scottsdale north of the Central Arizona Project Canal.
“The standard policy north of CAP is around $800 annually,” Erickson said.
Policyholders outside the special hazard areas will see their premiums reduced by 10 percent, rather than the previous 5 percent discount. The new rates went into effect Oct. 1.
City Councilman Tony Nelssen, who has been critical of flooding management in the city’s north, said Scottsdale’s rating is good news, but flooding issues still exist.
“That doesn’t change the fact that we’ve got quite a few residents impacted by stormwater,” he said.
Nelssen attributed the flooding to encroachment by development into the natural washes the city relies upon for drainage. The area sits in an alluvial fan, where storm water drains unpredictably out of the McDowell Mountains. It’s city policy to preserve the desert environment there.
“I think the bigger issue is that independent engineers were basically undercalculating the potential water flows in the washes,” Nelssen said. “That, coupled with building too close or slight modifications to washes from development, created new problems when it rained.”
In August, dozens of residents turned out to tell the City Council their flooding horror stories, with many alleging that city staff have rubber-stamped a number of development projects that have interfered with natural washes and created flooding downstream.
In response, the council requested city staff to draft a recommendation on improving stormwater drainage oversight by the end of the year.
Couch has said he intends to recommend adding two new stormwater engineers to the Water Resources Department to review all new development applications in flood-prone areas, and two new drainage inspectors to proactively monitor waterways north of the CAP Canal for potential development encroachments into the area’s system of natural washes.