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Residents request new flood study

August 21, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Whether they want it or not, most residents in the Pikeview West subdivision pay more than $600 a year for flood insurance because of a Federal Emergency Management Agency requirement, according to homeowners' association secretary Paul Gavin.

That requirement is based on flood studies flawed by incomplete data, said Gavin, who asked the Berkeley County Commission on Thursday to help his group's effort to get the area restudied.

"There's never been any reported flooding in the area," said Gavin, who has lived in the subdivision off U.S. 11 around Evans Run since 1984.

Updates of the early 1970s study that resulted in much of the subdivision's zoning in a 100-year flood plain were based on the same incomplete data the first study used to project runoff, he said.

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The original study didn't consider the terrain, said Berkeley County Engineer William Teach, who said limestone deposits, sinkholes and a quarry in the area could impact the projected runoff and, as a result, the area's flood plain zoning.

Discrepancies between projected runoff in a similarly flawed flood study of another part of the county and calculations of actual runoff there led to its removal from a flood plain zone, Teach said.

He said he sent FEMA a letter with information to justify a new study of Pikeview West.

Even if FEMA determines a new study is justified, it may never come to pass if the request isn't accompanied by data to base it on, said Gavin, who said he was afraid the study would be a low priority for FEMA.

The county has the option of doing its own study for FEMA to review, Teach said.

That's not an option in this case because of the cost of hiring an engineer, the precedent it would set for other areas of the county, and the county's liability if its study led to problems in the future, commissioners said.

"I see it as FEMA's responsibility. FEMA needs to continue to help counties like ours," said Commission President James Smith.

The commissioners pledged their support in pressuring FEMA directly and through pleas to U.S. senators and congress members for a new study.

The zoning affects 162 homeowners in the association, either by requiring them to have insurance or by hurting their property values, Gavin said.

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