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Shoshoni mayor working on floodplain designation

Oct 13, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

During this month's meeting of the Fremont County Association of Governors, State Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, asked Shoshoni Mayor Scott Peters an unusual question about Peters' small desert town.

"How are things coming on your insurance for floods?" Bebout asked.

According to Peters, officials in Washington, D.C., decided to study the country's floodplain maps sometime last year, updating the documents to contain new data that apparently shows Shoshoni in a floodplain.

"We can't tell who in Washington hit the button, but when they revisited the maps they were holding the old map that had eliminated us as a floodplain," Peters said. "They just reactivated us."

A floodplain, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is "level land that may be submerged by flood waters." Bebout said that in his opinion, Shoshoni's landscape doesn't fall under that category.

"I don't think Shoshoni's going to flood," Bebout said. "If Shoshoni floods we can all just go to the mountains."

Peters said he had a conversation about Shoshoni's floodplain with a staffer in Washington, who noted the proximity of Boysen Reservoir to the little town.

"She said, 'What happens if the dam breaks?'" Peters recalled. "I said, 'You'll be on the phone with Thermopolis.'"

Bebout joked that maybe water runs uphill in Washington, D.C. He said the floodplain situation is a real problem that must be addressed, because a handful of property owners in Shoshoni have been affected by the designation.

"If they're in the floodplain, they can't get insurance because someone happened to look at a map," Bebout said.

Peters said he knows of four homeowners who were affected by the change, but he said they were able to obtain property insurance on the condition that the issue would be addressed. Federal officials are on board to get Shoshoni "washed off" the nation's floodplain maps, Peters added.

"We haven't gotten the official notice back, (but it's) supposed to be done," Peters said. "Who knows, maybe they'll declare us a disaster area next."

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