DNR urging prompts board revearsal

A few weeks after denying a flood plain ordinance requested by the Minnesota DNR, the Mille Lacs County Board backtracked and approved it at a special meeting last Friday.

The meeting came after the DNR, the Minnesota agent for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), warned the board that there were consequences if the ordinance wasn’t approved.

Dale Homuth, regulation section manager for the DNR, told board chair Phil Peterson in a letter that there are 29 flood insurance policies that cannot be renewed if the county didn’t participate in the new flood insurance rate map that became effective March 4.

Homuth told Peterson that if insurance wasn’t available because the county wouldn’t participate, closing on a proposed mortgage would be “much more difficult.”

Those owning structures in the A zone who have federally backed loans would have to purchase flood insurance from private companies, such as Lloyds of London, he said.

Those policies typically cost 2 to 10 times more than national flood insurance program policies, Homuth told Peterson.

“I urge the county to adopt the required ordinance as soon as possible,” he said. “Failure to do so will cause undue hardship for many county residents.”

Back at the board’s Feb. 5 meeting, Commissioner Dave Oslin and Peterson led the fight not to adopt the new FEMA maps.

“I believe the federal government is overstepping its bounds in imposing restrictions,” said Oslin, a first-term commissioner from Isle.

Peterson, a veteran commissioner from rural Milaca, also talked against the ordinance and stepped down from the chair to make a motion to deny adoption of the proposed ordinance.

And at the time Michele McPherson, director of the county’s Land Services Office, said she didn’t think the feds did a good job of mapping the county.

“Many of the houses involved are 5, 10 or 15 feet above the high-water mark,” she said.

But, when push came to shove last Friday, the ordinance was adopted, even though there was still doubt from some commissioners about reversing their decision.

Commissioner Tim Wilhelm, a first-termer from rural Princeton, asked McPherson if FEMA could deny disaster aid, for example, if the county didn’t adopt the ordinance.

Yes, she said, but not outside the disaster area.

McPherson said there is the possibility of remapping being done, something Homuth of the DNR addressed in his letter.

Wilhelm said he didn’t like making people buy flood insurance that haven’t had to have it in the past.

Commissioner Roger Tellinghuisen, rural Milaca, asked early in the discussion if would be “a lifetime thing” if the board adopted the ordinance.

“Can we get out of it?” he asked.

Attorney Mark Herzing from the county attorney’s office answered that a five-year review, at minimum, is required by the federal government.

First-term commissioner Genny Reynolds, Princeton, made a motion to adopt the ordinance and it passed unanimously, with Oslin absent from the meeting.