Kingston resident Nancy Cooper is counting the days until new Luzerne County flood maps take effect because they remove her neighborhood from a high-risk zone that jacks up the cost of her flood insurance.
Cooper said she hasn‚??t had a drop of floodwater inside her West Walnut Street home since it was added to the high-risk zone in 1977.
New maps implemented Nov. 2 will change the boundary lines, moving an estimated 10,300 county properties into high-risk zones and removing 8,800, including 500 in Cooper‚??s neighborhood.
Property owners in high-risk zones must pay higher rates for flood insurance and are forced to buy coverage if they have outstanding mortgages.
Annual flood insurance premiums are typically $1,300 to $1,500 on structures in the fish-shaped Kingston zone loosely framed by Division and Union streets and Railroad and Wyoming avenues, compared to $400 to $500 elsewhere in the municipality, Cooper said.
‚??It‚??s not justified to be paying these high rates,‚?Ě said Cooper, a municipal councilwoman.
West Walnut Street property owners Peter and Ellen Ritteman said their most recent annual flood insurance premium was $2,872. They don‚??t have a mortgage, but say they‚??d be uneasy going without coverage.
‚??You have to have it,‚?Ě Peter Ritteman said.
His wife said the current cost is through the roof.
‚??It‚??s a very foolish premium,‚?Ě she said.
Cooper said the neighborhood was labeled high-risk with the argument it could be flooded by Toby Creek.
However, a giant impounding basin off Division Street in Pringle holds and diverts water from the Back Mountain in the Toby Creek watershed so Pringle and Kingston aren‚??t flooded, officials said.
Rising water in the basin is gravity-forced into a massive underground pipe to a pumping station in Edwardsville, where it is then dumped into the Susquehanna River.
Cooper said she unsuccessfully urged legislators to redo the maps for years but didn‚??t see results until the federal government allocated $1 billion in 2003 to computerize and update flood maps across the country.
Paul Keating said municipal officials have tried to get the Kingston neighborhood out of the high-risk zone since he became municipal administrator 16 years ago because its tripled insurance rates weren‚??t warranted.
‚??As far as we‚??re concerned, it‚??s been a long time coming, and it‚??s finally happening,‚?Ě Keating said.
The neighborhood is the lowest spot in town, he said. The area once had minor basement flooding since he‚??s been administrator, but that was due to a malfunctioning pumping system that had nothing to do with the impounding basin, Keating said.
The municipality is spending more than $100,000 to install three new pumps at the Mercer-Poplar pumping station, which will mitigate street flooding in that neighborhood, Keating said. The new pumps should be installed within two months, he said.
‚??We feel the system we have in place as well as all the improvements we‚??re making are surely sufficient to eradicate any drainage issues in that zone,‚?Ě he said.
Cooper said two of her children own properties in the neighborhood.
She believes the high-risk flood designation has hurt property sales.
The new maps were unveiled in 2009 and originally slated for adoption in 2011.
Neighborhood residents felt powerless because delays prevented them from realizing reductions promised in the upcoming maps, Cooper said.
‚??My frustration is that it‚??s three years later, and we‚??re still paying the higher rates,‚?Ě she said.
‚?Ę The new flood maps may be viewed at all municipal buildings in the county or online at https:// www.rampp-team.com/pa.htm.
‚?Ę Scroll to Luzerne County and click on the "preliminary interactive flood map index (sheet 1)." Use the PDF tools to zoom in to your section of the county and click inside the blue numbered box to obtain an aerial map. This map must be enlarged to identify individual properties.
‚?Ę Any property in a blue-shaded area labeled as a flood zone starting with the letter A is in the high-risk zone, requiring insurance with an outstanding mortgage.