Mount Vernon residents, FEMA to talk new flood risk maps

Open house set for Sept. 21

Mount Vernon water tower.jpg
Mount Vernon's water tower.
Mitchell Republic File Photo
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MOUNT VERNON, S.D. — Mount Vernon residents will soon get a chance to discuss with federal officials how recently updated federal flood insurance rate maps could affect them and their community.

An open house will be hosted by officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the city of Mount Vernon, Davison County and the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21. The meeting will take place at the Tom Young Community Center, located at 500 N. Main St. in Mount Vernon.

The event stems from a request made by Mount Vernon city officials at a Flood Risk Consultation Coordination Officer meeting held in July at the Davison County Fairgrounds. Such meetings serve as an opportunity for a community to ask questions of FEMA regarding the new preliminary flood risk maps and learn about the National Flood Insurance Program.

Preliminary floodplain maps were issued March 25 , and are part of an overall multi-year project that will update the FEMA floodplain maps for 27 eastern South Dakota counties, including Davison County. The maps are important as they can impact homeowner flood insurance costs and which properties may be required to have it for home lending.

Weston Frank, the mayor of Mount Vernon, and Dave Anderson, president of the Mount Vernon City Council, were both on hand for the July meeting and were hoping for clarification on whether a flood control structure that diverts water around Mount Vernon was assessed correctly when it was surveyed for the latest maps.


Those maps show an increase in the number of Mount Vernon residents who would be reclassified as living in a flood plain.

“There is a flood gate that diverts water around the city. What was the position of that flood gate with the new maps?” Anderson asked at the July meeting. “Because the new maps show almost a third of the town being added to the flood map.”

The James River near Mitchell is pictured during September 2019 flooding.
Mitchell Republic File Photo

FEMA officials on hand determined that surveyors had assessed the floodgate in both its open and closed positions and found that the amount of water diverted showed minimal change between the two positions. They suggested adding a second culvert or replacing the current one with a larger structure could solve the issue.

Frank said at the July meeting that that flood gate was put in as part of another FEMA mitigation project, so it seemed strange that it would not fall into compliance in this instance.

“It seems (odd) that FEMA would have put dollars toward the project if it wasn’t going to be sized adequately,” Frank said.

Frank and Anderson requested a public meeting for Mount Vernon residents and FEMA officials to discuss the matter further. Such a meeting would allow residents to interact with FEMA personnel to have their questions answered.

Frank said installing a new structure could be a possible solution should funding be available, but the meeting should allow for a more direct exchange of questions and answers between residents and the federal agency. He said he wants them to get the most direct access to accurate information possible.

Mount Vernon to seek public meeting with FEMA on preliminary flood maps

“We have to be prepared and make sure we have tracked down and followed everything we can to say that, when we’re done, that we did everything we could to help them,” Frank said.

Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at
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