Lents homeowners taken off flood plain list

Homes on either side of the red box, shown on the Johnson's Creek flood plain in this map, fought to be removed from it and won. (Portland Maps)
Homes on either side of the red box, shown on the Johnson's Creek flood plain in this map, fought to be removed from it and won. (Portland Maps)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Would you want insurance for something you weren’t at risk of?

Three homeowners in the Lents neighborhood of Southeast Portland, who were being forced to pay hundreds of dollars in flood insurance every year, proved they didn’t need to be. Now, they’re left wondering how many others may be paying unnecessarily.

In 1996, a major flood from Johnson's Creek damaged homes and businesses in Lents. (KOIN 6)
In 1996, a major flood from Johnson’s Creek damaged homes and businesses in Lents. (KOIN 6)

All three homes are roughly three quarters of a mile from Johnson Creek, putting them on the Johnson’s Creek flood plain list. This means they must purchase $900 annual flood insurance.

“That flood insurance is ridiculous,” said resident Bertha Hinshaw.

Three homeowners paid an engineer to prove to the Federal Emergency Management Agency their homes were not at risk of a flood, although the area is known for flooding. In 1996 the creek spilled into businesses and homes in the neighborhood.

“[My house] never flooded, never,” said Hinshaw. “We built the house 51 years ago, raised three daughters.”

Hiring a private engineer

Rebecca Cranston, who lives two doors down from Hinshaw, hired a private engineer for $1,200 to prove her house sits high enough it should never have been considered on the flood plain in the first place.

“$1,100 every year for the first six years and this year my bill went up to 1700 dollars,” she said.

“I just about had a fit.” Cranston said it was exciting when she was proven right.

Since then, two other neighbors found their homes were mistakenly listed on the flood plain – meaning they too were paying for insurance they didn’t need.

“What if it is just the tip of the iceberg, maybe something needs to be looked into,” said Cranston.

“There’s a couple things about that, there hasn’t been a 100-year flood on record,” said Johnson Creek Watershed manager Maggie Skendarian.

She said the flood of 1996 was not considered a 100-year flood. Skendarian said flood plain maps are created based on the best available data, which aren’t as specific as data collected by private engineers. She said a few inches in elevation can determine a home’s status as in or out of the flood plain.

“The flood insurance program is there for a reason and it isn’t perfect, it absolutely isn’t perfect,” she said.

The engineer who worked on Cranston’s house, Robert Boyer, said he wants to help the neighborhood.

Still, Skendarian said his price may be too high. “There is a method that shouldn’t cost people as much as what you’re quoting to determine they’re not in if that’s the case,” she said.

You can check the status of your home here. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s