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April 24, 2013

A spirit of municipal cooperation between Munster and Hammond provided the energy needed to remove 1,556 primarily Munster residential properties from the Little Calumet River flood zone on March 1.

Removal from a Special Flood Hazard Area reduces the cost of flood insurance premiums for business and residential property owners, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Any flood zone property with a mortgage is required to have flood insurance by the mortgage holder.

FEMA governs which geographical areas are in the flood plain. The Flood Insurance and Mitigation Administration is a component of FEMA and manages the National Flood Insurance Program.

The official report from FEMA indicated that the 90-day comment or appeal period that began Oct. 4, 2012 expired with no valid requests for changes to the modified flood hazard information.

The 1,556 Munster properties are located along the Little Calumet River starting where Hart Ditch flows into the river, east of the Northcote Bridge, and ending about a half mile before Hohman Avenue. Hammond properties in this same section were also removed March 1.

“This is part of the joint application (for a Letter of Map Revision, or LOMR) we did with the city of Hammond to remove properties along the Little Calumet River from the flood plain,” Town Manager Tom DeGiulio told the Town Council earlier this year. “This doesn’t go all the way to the state line.”

There were five properties on Hohman Avenue and along Hart Ditch that were still in the flood hazard zone that required additional analysis, he said.

Five houses in that same area were originally not removed. “Five still remain in the SFHA because of interior drainage issues,” said Slavash Beik, of Christopher Burke Engineering LLC, in a summary sheet to Munster officials earlier this year.

However, on Feb. 3, the Munster Town Council voted to spend up to $10,000 for on-call engineering services and documentation from Christopher Burke to FEMA aimed at removing those last five homes from the flood hazard zone protected by the levee system.

“FEMA needs more data, including surveying work for elevation, on those last five,” Town Engineer James Mandon told the council in February. “It’s unlikely the whole $10,000 will be used.”

Mandon told the council he thinks two of those five will be quickly removed from the flood zone because they are new construction that meets FEMA requirements.

Christopher Burke performed those tasks according to the agreement signed by the Town Council. The Crown Point-based engineering firm worked with Hammond and Munster last year to obtain a Letter of Map Revision from FEMA for the levee-protected areas along Hart Ditch and the western section of the Little Calumet River.

The engineering firm also mailed out information packages to residents who may have misplaced their original notification of the Letter of Map Revision. This information allows property owners to apply for lower flood insurance premiums.

“It’s important to complete this project,” said Town Councilman David Nellans.

Munster used money from its sewer fund to pay for the project.

“This is a great example of intergovernmental cooperation,” DeGiulio says. “Hammond and Munster shared costs and both communities benefitted. Hammond and Highland did the same thing.”

DeGiulio also reminds property owners that being taken out of the Special Flood Hazard Area is just the first step to reduce flood insurance premiums.

“We need to remind property owners that they must contact their mortgage companies about being officially removed from the flood zone,” says DeGiulio.

Property owners must supply the official FEMA documents to mortgage holder to have flood insurance rates reduced.

“We recommend that everyone still carry some flood insurance,” DeGiulio says. “The premium cost will go down because of the removal from the flood zone.”