Doña Ana County Flood Commission: Taking Measures to be Flood Prepared

By Carl Lukesh Photo courtesy of DAC Flood Commission

The Doña Ana County Flood Commission assists in protecting the health and welfare of citizens within Doña Ana County. Since 1988, the Flood Commission has been working on the maintenance, repair and upgrade of many existing and recently new flood control structures. As funding becomes available, other projects are being developed and implemented in order to support our community’s growth and address flood hazard concerns. 

The flood commission offers a variety of services to assist the residents of Doña Ana County with flood hazard awareness and prevention. The department performs routine flood determinations, at the request of Doña Ana County residents, through map assessments, historical data, and engineering in order to identify properties located within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). As part of the County’s land development procedures, the Flood Commission provides its assistance by reviewing permit applications for residential and commercial development. 

One of the newest services that the Flood Commission offers to the residents of Doña Ana County is monitoring rain fall throughout the county using a gauging station. The gauging station is intended to be part of the regional Flood Warning System for Doña Ana County. The gauging stations are equipped with measurement devices that monitor and record rainfall depth, wind speed, temperature, along with other measurable weather conditions. The Doña Ana County Flood Commission, in conjunction with the National Weather Service, has installed a series of rainfall monitoring stations throughout the county. The placement of these stations is designed to predict flood events and enable an early alert for residents to take actions that mitigate loss of life or property that might otherwise occur. Upon full implementation, there will be approximately 30 weather stations all of which will be linked to the National Weather Service and to other gauges in Southern New Mexico and El Paso County. 

Having a plan in place to prepare for any major natural hazard is essential for any community.  The Doña Ana County Flood Commission and the Office of Emergency Management have joined forces with the City of Las Cruces, the Village of Hatch, the Town of Mesilla, the City of Sunland Park, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, New Mexico State University, and the City of Anthony, New Mexico to review and update the All Hazard Mitigation Plan. The goal is to reduce or eliminate long term risk to life and property from all hazard events that may occur. This process involves identifying and profiling natural hazards that are most likely to occur in a community. The development of this mitigation plan will also ensure continued eligibility for non-emergency federal mitigation grants. 

The Doña Ana County Flood Commission is part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). As members of the NFIP, it is our responsibility to educate the public in flood mitigation. Throughout the many ways of public outreach, Doña Ana County enrolled in and became part of the Community Rating System (CRS). The Community Rating System (CRS) is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages community flood plain management activities that exceed the minimum National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requirements. Before applying to enroll in the CRS program, a community must be in full compliance with NFIP minimum criteria. Currently, Doña Ana County is a CRS class 8. Property owners who live within the unincorporated areas of the county are entitled to receive a ten percent (10%) reduction in FEMA flood insurance. With each class reduction, there is an increase in the percentage reduction of FEMA flood insurance. Property owners who live within the unincorporated areas of Doña Ana County are eligible to receive a reduction in FEMA flood insurance. 

Each year, Doña Ana County must recertify or verify that it is continuing to perform the activities that are being credited by the CRS program. Recertification is an annual activity that includes progress reports for certain activities. The recertification takes place every few years and is conducted in the form of another verification visit to the community. Credit criteria will change over time as experience is gained in implementing, observing and measuring the activities as new concepts in flood plain management come into common practice. As innovations arise, these concepts will be considered for recognition under the CRS program. The objective of the CRS program is too reward communities that are doing more than meeting the minimum NFIP requirements to help the residence of the community prevent or reduce flood losses. Under the CRS program, FEMA flood insurance premiums are adjusted to reflect community activities that reduce flood damage to existing buildings and manage development in areas not mapped by the NFIP such as assisting insurance agents in obtaining flood data and obtaining flood insurance. The CRS also provides an incentive for communities to initiate new flood protection activities. The goal of the CRS program is to encourage community and state activities beyond those that are required by the NFIP. 

Elevation Certificates are an important administrative tool of the NFIP. They are used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with community flood plain management ordinances. Elevation certificates are also utilized by insurance companies for purposes of administering the appropriate flood insurance premiums. Any inhabitable structure found to be within any one of FEMA’s Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) will require an Elevation Certificate. The Elevation Certificate will need to be completed by a New Mexico licensed surveyor and or engineer. 

Doña Ana County Flood Commission staff is working hard to assure that the public’s best interests are taken into consideration when services are provided to residents of Doña Ana County.

Spring 2018

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