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Challenging FEMA flood map recommendations

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Challenging FEMA flood map recommendations
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The Federal Emergency Management Agency says past calculations of areas that could be affected by flooding, nationwide, have been too conservative. The agency is trying to redraw flood zone maps to cover new areas it says should be protected by federal flood insurance. The mapping has sparked controversy in many areas where people want to avoid the high costs of flood insurance. YNN's Bill Carey says a battle over new FEMA maps of Syracuse continues.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It did not take long for residents on Syracuse's southwest side to review the new FEMA flood calculations and realize that they might soon have to hand over hundreds of dollars a year for federal flood insurance.

Nearly a year later, they are still warning of the impact of the new flood zone maps. They say people will be forced from the neighborhood by those costs.

"You have new houses coming in from SHA. You have new homeowners coming in through the MLB. And you have residents that are still here. You have an urban garden that's coming in, that's building up our neighborhood. And so, in one hand we're lifting it up. And, in the other hand, the government is taking it back," said Mercedes Bloodworth of Syracuse United Neighbors.

The argument being made by the Federal Emergency Management Agency is that, over the years, overgrowth of vegetation along the shoreline and a buildup of soil in the creek means it can no longer hold as much water as it once did. Making it more likely that water will spill over its banks and flood portions of the city.

Still, despite a massive snowmelt and record rainfall in April, the residents say FEMA's new predictions were wrong and that the old flood maps got it right.

"We did not experience any flooding. The places that they had identified earlier, those did flood. They did exactly what FEMA said they would do. But the southwest side did not," Bloodworth said.

Both the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County, assisted by federal lawmakers, are fighting to have the new flood maps changed. And there are some promising signs.

"They seem to be agreeing with some of our preliminary, our data that shows that Onondaga Creek can hold more water than they may have originally calculated. I talked a couple of weeks ago and made sure that they had received our latest information and FEMA officials told me that the ball's in their court," said City of Syracuse Operations Director Timothy Carroll.

But there is no word yet on just when any FEMA ruling will come.

The City of Syracuse may have another solution to federal concerns over Onondaga Creek. It says there is a possibility portions of the waterway could be dredged to allow the creek to handle more water flow.

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