Last week, KGVO published a story about several homeowners in the South Hills behind Cold Springs Elementary School, flooded basements and a small flood plain designation in the area.

On Thursday, Missoula City Storm Water Superintendent Bob Hayes provided some history and perspective on the issue, first that the flood plain designation is highly unusual.

“A flood plain designation is typically this continual flowing water from a stream, creek or river that rises when there is excessive storm water and causes flooding,” Hayes began. “Since there’s no continually flowing water here, the designation for this to be a flood plain is quite odd and unusual by FEMA. This particular area was in the county, and after it was built and constructed in 1989 the city annexed the area, so everything that was out there was inherited by the city.”

Hayes said the city had no record of a storm pipe until the story appeared on KGVO.

“I still haven’t seen it yet myself,” he said. “We’ve gone up there and looked several times and it is still so buried by snow that we haven’t seen any pipe. I haven’t even seen any flowing water. I see a little flowing water in the street up above in Valley View. I’ve seen a slight sheen of some water between the properties. I spoke with a city maintenance worker who had been contacted about a decade ago by a homeowner who had water in his basement, and it was determined that the water that was coming into his property was coming from the neighbor’s house up above him.”

Hayes said nevertheless the homeowners who live in the flood plain must apply to FEMA to have the designation removed.

“Both the city and county flood plain administrators say even if the water can be removed from the equation, removal of the flood plain designation is the responsibility of each of the property owners,” he said. “They have to do a LOMA (Letter of Map Amendment). They would have to hire an engineer to survey the property and produce a document to get them out of the flood plain.”

One of the homeowners said that process would cost thousands of dollars.

Hayes said there are possible remedies to the water problem itself.

“There is an irrigation ditch that’s nearby and there are storm drain easements across several of these properties  that would allow for us to put the water into a pipe and lay the pipe through those easements to the irrigation ditch,” Hayes continued. “My best guess is that if we hired an engineer to look at it they would probably suggest a pipe be installed to move the water. It may also be a situation where Missoula has sumps all over town. They may suggest putting a sump here or a sump there and it collects all the water and it’s not a problem.”

Hayes said anyone with a question about storm water should feel free to contact his office at 552-6358.