Commissioners approve MOU for Big Hole floodplain mapping

VIRGINIA CITY – Madison County Commissioners approved two memos of understanding Tuesday to develop a floodplain map for 116 miles of the Big Hole River.

The MOU between Madison County and Future West, a non-profit consulting group based out of Bozeman, outlines phase one of the hydrology study for the Big Hole River. Once a contractor is selected for the study Madison County will pay $5,000 for their portion of the project.

As illustrated by last springs’ severe flooding throughout Madison County, identifying a floodplain boundary is a public safety issue, said project coordinator Ralph Hamler, adding that the current maps of the floodplain are not legally defensible. The project would produce maps that are recognized by both the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It’s not the most expensive method, but it gives us the best available resource to rely on,” Hamler said.

The MOU between Madison County and the DNRC outlines the nature of their partnership for the project as well as the roles and responsibilities everyone involved, including the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. The DNRC has budgeted $37,000 for the project in conjunction with a $35,000 from the DEQ, which will pay for phase two of the project and the final product received by the state.

Once the preliminary floodplain assessment has been made, a public hearing process will take place to take comment from the community on the issue prior to final approval.

Commissioner Dan Happel made the motion in support of the MOUs and the motion passed. Happel emphasized that while the project is in the interest of public safety it is also important to recognize and preserve individual land ownership.

“I support this process with the caveat that the number one priority is private property rights,” Happel said.

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