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  • Writer's pictureSandee Caviness

Munds Park Community Faces Flood of Concerns with New FEMA Maps

Updated: Apr 16

The recent community meeting held on Saturday, April 13 at 3 pm took place at the Munds Park Community Church and was moderated by Len Friedlund of Community Watch. The lineup of presenters included several notable figures such as Nancy Huzar, the Munds Park Project Organizer, and Bill Cowan, a well-known Northern Arizona historian and writer. Other speakers were Larry Hering, a resident at North Lodge, Josh Tope, the Pinewood Fire District Fire Chief, and Pastor Steve Bowyer of Munds Park Community Church, who contributed via a pre-recorded video. Also participating were Jim Carpenter, the District Manager of the Pinewood Sanitary District, Tim Smith, a local commercial property owner, Adam Hess, a Board of Supervisor who moderated the Q & A session, John Carr, the Coconino County Engineer Supervisor, and Scott Ogden, a Senior Engineer from JE Fuller/Hydrology & Geomorphology, Inc.


The meeting was attended by 77 community members, a figure that was notably lower than expected. The organizers attributed the smaller turnout to a scheduling clash with the 40th-anniversary party of well-loved community members. Despite the lower in-person attendance, the meeting reached a broader audience; at the advice of Kass Kral, the Pinewood News live-streamed through Facebook, ensuring that the community could participate or review the proceedings at their convenience.


Before discussing the main points of the meeting, I would like to acknowledge the strong working relationship between the Pinewood News and Coconino County representatives. The County has consistently been responsive, actively listening and taking appropriate actions whenever possible. This working relationship is highly valued and appreciated, as they are a dedicated team.


However, there were notable shortcomings in handling the recent flood map release, meetings, and the appeal process. Furthermore, District 3 Board of Supervisor Adam Hess, new to his role, was noticeably unprepared to address questions during the meeting. Similarly, John Carr, the Coconino County Engineer Supervisor, had little to contribute. Consequently, the responsibility of answering community questions primarily fell to Scott Ogden, a contractor from JE Fuller/Hydrology & Geomorphology, Inc., representing the County.


Given the importance of flood mitigation to our community, it was disappointing to see key figures unprepared to discuss how they plan to manage the predicted flooding and support the accuracy of their processes. This aspect of the meeting was crucial, and the community deserved well-prepared responses and thorough support.


The flood maps are more complex than they appear. FEMA, which also acts as a government flood insurance provider (mull that over for a few minutes), creates flood maps to illustrate a community’s risk of flooding. Specifically, these maps delineate a community’s flood zones, floodplain boundaries, and base flood elevations. Property owners, insurance agents, and lenders use these maps to determine flood insurance requirements and the associated costs.


As many homeowners know, owning a property in a flood zone leads to higher insurance premiums and can decrease the home’s value. Therefore, when floodplain maps are redrawn and suddenly include several hundred homes—people understandably demand assurance that these maps are accurate.


Moreover, if the maps accurately reflect the risks, homeowners want to ensure the safety of their families. It’s unacceptable to deliver bad news without offering real solutions to protect our loved ones and the homes that shelter them.


Area’s At Risk


Munds Park FEMA Flood Map
Munds Park FEMA Floodplain Map

Coconino County’s new flood maps for Munds Park mark 45 square miles as watershed areas. This designation includes two critical infrastructures: the Pinewood Sanitary District and the Fire House. However, locals advocate adding one more crucial infrastructure to this list: the Munds Park Community Church. The rationale isn’t because it’s a house of worship—God can handle His own house—but because the church serves as our emergency shelter and is situated directly in the path of the flood zone outlined by the County.


Furthermore, the County’s projections suggest that a 100-year flood would impact approximately 400 structures within the Park, should such an event occur. This highlights the significant potential risk to the community and underscores the importance of including the church in the list of critical infrastructures.


Steve Lemons, a long-time resident of Munds Park since 1980, raised some interesting questions regarding the floodplain area which he overlooks from his front porch. According to Steve, although the area does experience flooding, the water levels have historically been manageable. Steve asked Scott Ogden, “Are you predicting more rain? Are you suggesting that global warming is a factor? Why should we be prepared for bigger floods than what we have experienced so far?” Steve’s familiarity with the local terrain has him questioning why an increase in water levels is anticipated.


While not considering himself a global warming alarmist, Scott acknowledged that the region’s winters are becoming wetter, which could “potentially” lead to more frequent flooding. As we all know, forecasting weather is inherently unpredictable. While Scott couldn’t definitively forecast future conditions, he noted that there is a 1% chance that a 100-year flood could occur.


This projection could lead Munds Park property owners to face lower resale values and higher insurance premiums for a 100-year flood that statistically has a 99% chance of not occurring within any given year.


That was my thinking anyway. However, let’s a look into what 1% really means:


What 1% Chance Means: Every year, there’s a small, 1% chance that a major flood (or another significant event like an earthquake) could happen. Each year is an independent occurrence, meaning the probability does not decrease just because the event did not occur the previous year.


Adding Up Over Time: Compiling these 1% chances over many years, such as 100 years, isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Since each year presents a separate 1% risk, the probability of experiencing at least one such event over a century increases to about 63%.


Why It’s Not 99% Safe: Thus, if you were under the impression that there’s a 99% chance such events won’t happen in any given year, thereby making you safe for a long time, the reality is somewhat different. Over an extended period like 100 years, the likelihood of such an event occurring at least once is actually more than half. This realization underscores the importance of being prepared, even for unlikely events.


In simpler terms, the rarity of an event doesn’t guarantee its absence; being well-prepared remains crucial.


But do homeowners really need to pay more in premiums and get stuck with lower property value for a 1% chance in a hundred years? Well, FEMA, with a network of 50 insurance companies ready to write your new policy, says you do.


So, how accurate are these reports? Honestly, it’s hard to say. The study took 12 years to complete, and the flood maps were created by JE Fuller/Hydrology & Geomorphology, Inc., a contractor for the County. Stantec Consulting, a firm that adheres to the principles of the UN Global Compact and supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), reviewed their work for accuracy. Stantec Consulting is a vast international company that provides services aimed at helping government agencies achieve net zero goals and protect assets from the impacts of climate change.


Why do I mention this? Because, while people genuinely desire the best for our planet, many  are skeptical of climate change, viewing it more as an industry designed to generate revenue and spread influence through government agencies rather than a genuine environmental concern.


This leads us to another significant concern: widespread distrust in the government’s motives or ability to provide honest and effective solutions to problems like our floodplain map. Many wonder how accurate the predictions are and to what extent they might represent a financial maneuver.


Steve Bowyer highlighted this skepticism in his video presentation, mentioning that many people simply don’t trust our government. Therefore, both the County and FEMA have a considerable task ahead in building trust and ensuring the accuracy of their information so that residents can be adequately prepared.


The mistrust was exacerbated when the County introduced new and complex flood maps and then held a feedback meeting in the winter without providing an opportunity for a public question and answer session. This left many locals unable to voice their concerns or have their questions addressed satisfactorily. Additionally, the County’s 90-day appeal process seemed to discourage layperson participation by requiring scientific evidence to challenge the preliminary findings. Considering it took 12 years for the County to produce these maps, expecting locals to provide scientific feedback within 90 days seems unreasonable.


Let’s talk about the next steps. Phase II as Scott implied was coming next, focus on protecting our families, properties, and neighbors as they navigate I-17 during the potential 100-year flood.


But is there really a Phase II?


Scott attempted to inject some optimism regarding mitigating flood risks. He explained that if the cost of mitigation is less than the potential damage costs, the County could apply for grants to assist us. Furthermore, he noted that these FEMA grants come with specific criteria that must be met to qualify. Essentially, if we can successfully navigate the bureaucratic hurdles and demonstrate that the cost of prevention is more economical than the potential damage, we might receive some support.


I spoke with Lucinda Andreani, the Deputy County Manager & Flood Control Administrator, before the meeting, and she was remarkably candid. Although I’m paraphrasing, she expressed that it would be nearly miraculous if FEMA approved the grants we request. The reality is that Munds Park doesn’t have as many structures at risk as other areas, which puts us lower on the priority list in the battle for resources with other communities facing similar issues. Lucinda also highlighted the daunting nature of the grant process, mentioning that one community waited 40 years before their project was approved.


Frankly, we’d be fortunate if the County takes any action to mitigate the devastating flood they claim we’re at risk for within our lifetimes, if at all.


Here’s another issue. Forbes estimates that Americans pay between 30-40% of their earnings in direct and indirect taxes, including those from state and local governments. After taking up to 40% of our hard-earned dollars, they essentially tell us—while simultaneously asking for more money for flood insurance—"You’re on your own! Hope you can swim!”


The saddest moment of the meeting for me was when a local woman stood up and said we’re being priced out of our homes. She lives in Munds Park because she can’t afford a home in Flagstaff. She expressed her concerns about the future, saying, “I don’t know how my kids will be able to afford housing when they grow up; it’s so depressingly difficult now.” She shared that her home in Munds Park is meant to be an inheritance to ensure her children have a home of their own, and now she worries about the additional expense of flood insurance. “Will they be able to afford to live here?” she asked.


Call to Action

As we reflect on the recent community meeting and the substantial issues discussed, it’s evident that the flood map revisions have stirred significant concern among Munds Park residents. Introducing new and complex flood zones has implications not just for our current lifestyle but also for the financial legacy we hope to leave for our children. Given these changes, every community member must actively participate in the appeal process.


As residents and stakeholders in the future of Munds Park, I urge each of you to take the time to understand the implications of these flood map changes. Participate in the appeal process, gain knowledge, and contribute constructively. This is about more than just maps; it’s about our homes, investments, and community’s resilience. Let’s stand together to ensure that our interests are protected and that our community remains a safe, affordable place for generations to come.


Together, we can make a difference. Your involvement is essential. Join in the efforts to scrutinize, question, and appeal the flood map changes. Remember, a well-informed community is a powerful one. Let’s use this power to strive for what is just and necessary for Munds Park.


You can see the recorded meeting on the Pinewood News Facebook page @MundsParkPinewoodNews or check out the Coconino County website, they have the recording there too.


The Deadline to Appeal

The County would like appeals back by April 22 but will accept them through April 24.


Time is critical here—you have the power to appeal! Please submit your appeals, comments, and questions either by email at FEMAFloodMap@coconino.az.gov or by calling 928-679-8881.


1 Comment


Nancy Sieleman
Nancy Sieleman
Apr 15

This is a high-level and philosophical approach for an appeal. Thank you Pinewood News for being part of the Community, not just in it!

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