SHADY COVE — As it continues efforts to bring 17 violating properties into compliance with federal floodplain regulations, the city is getting a helping hand from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD).

SHADY COVE — As it continues efforts to bring 17 violating properties into compliance with federal floodplain regulations, the city is getting a helping hand from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD).

At Thursday's City Council meeting, Mayor Ruth Keith said the DLCD has agreed to provide assistance at no charge through Christine Shirley, National Floodplain Insurance Program coordinator for the department.

Keith said she met with Shirley last week at City Hall "to discuss strategies for removing Shady Cove from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) probation."

Also attending were City Administrator Elise Smurzynski; Public Works Director George Bostic; Rogue Valley Council of Governments executive board member Becca Croft; and Joe Strahl, president of Public Works Management (PWM).

PWM is the private company hired by the city late last year to help bring the city into compliance.

Smurzynski said the strategies discussed at last week's meeting are designed to find ways to improve future property development decisions within the floodplain and demonstrate to FEMA progress in correcting known violations.

The 17 violating properties are what remain of 28 problem homes that were discovered during FEMA floodplain inspections conducted in 2001.

Violations include appliances that could get swept away during a flood; basement areas below the base flood elevation level that have been converted into living spaces; and wiring, electrical connections and propane tanks within the floodplain.

FEMA placed the city on flood insurance probation last November. Probation adds a $50 yearly surcharge to insurance premiums on all flood insurance policies written in the city.

If the city doesn't convince FEMA that it's made progress in bringing the violating homes into compliance, it could be suspended from the NFIP. Suspension would mean flood insurance would not be available to residents and federal disaster relief would be blocked during and after a catastrophic flood.

Although probation usually lasts a year, it may come sooner. FEMA is expected to review the city's efforts to gain homeowner compliance sometime in May.

Last January, Strahl warned that FEMA could replace the current probation with a suspension anytime after May 2.

"They could," he said, "but what they really want is the city to enforce their floodplain ordinance."

Smurzynski said, "The city and (Public Works Management) have received letters and have had conversations with many of the people who received violation notices in December. Most of those people have either corrected the identified problems or indicated a willingness to correct many of them."

She said that because FEMA is interested in the steps the city is taking to improve its floodplain enforcement procedures, officials from the city and Public Works Management recently met with Jackson County building officials to discuss cooperation between the city and county, in coordinating and standardizing procedures for building inspections and permits issued within the floodplain.

"We are also planning an open house in June," said Smurzynski. "It will provide opportunities for direct contact between the public and stakeholders to answer questions and provide important information about the (flood insurance) and general floodplain issues."

She said details of the open house will be provided at the June 5 City Council meeting.

Representatives from Public Works Management will provide the council a FEMA update and also discuss other floodplain issues at the April 17 and June 5 council meetings.

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com