Trinity flood fears could mandate costly insurance



Posted on April 19, 2010 at 9:07 PM

DALLAS — A new plan to save hundreds of North Texas families from flooding is going to cost the City of Dallas as much as $150 million.

That's the price tag that has been put on needed levee repairs along the Trinity River, but because the fixes won't happen soon enough, homeowners near two of the city's pump stations are going to have to buy flood insurance they never expected was necessary.

The price tag could be hundreds of dollars a year for the affected families.

And even if levee repairs are completed on time, the government thinks the flooding potential of water moving toward the river and pump stations like may be enough to mandate flood insurance for property owners.

The Pavaho pump station drains some West Dallas neighborhoods, but under new and tougher federal flood protection rules, it won't meet standards until a new pump station is built in 2012.

So even if levees are repaired by 2011, the government may require nearby residents like Mary Ann Zuniga to purchase flood insurance.

"I've been here for four generations in West Dallas and never been flooded," she said.

The flooding concern is not without cause.

Last June, the Pavaho pump couldn't keep up with heavy rains and the runoff backed up into streets. Fortunately, no homes flooded — this time.

Thousands of homeowners who live along the Trinity's west levee — and commercial property owners on the east levee — may need to buy flood insurance until the city's pump stations are updated.

City Council member Steve Salazar, who represents West Dallas, is concerned how development could be affected.

"Financing is going to be difficult to achieve for any kind of new buildings that want to be built there or new homes or new apartments," he said. "They're going to have to have a totally different criteria for how they are going to be built."

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, residential flood insurance could cost up to $800 a year. Salazar said he's hoping the city can help.

"I think the city will have to look at is there money that the city can help provide for very low, low income people who are not able to afford that insurance," he said.

Salazar won't be voting on any of this. He's one of the West Dallas homeowners affected, and will have to remove himself from the debate and voting.