The initials CRS will be seen and heard with increasing frequency in the coming months around Patagonia and they will have nothing to do with the memory loss often associated with this abbreviation. No, this CRS will be welcomed by as many as 50 or 60 homeowners whose homes lie within the flood plain who may pay less for their flood insurance because of the town’s participation in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Rating System (CRS).

CRS is used by FEMA to rate the efforts of local jurisdictions that are wholly or partially in the path of potential floods to reduce the risks associated with such catastrophes and to reduce the cost of flood insurance, which is required of all buildings with federally-insured financing. CRS places communities in one of ten levels of preparedness, level one being the best and ten the worst. Each level of improvement brings with it a 5-10% reduction in the premiums insurance companies charge to insure homeowners against flood losses.

Patagonia’s participation in CRS was authorized by the town council last September and has been spearheaded by Murphy Musick, who serves as the town’s CRS Coordinator, and Anne Townsend, a member of the town’s Flood and Flow Committee. Patagonia is currently at Level 9 but expects to improve its rating after having submitted documentation of several steps it has taken to improve its ability to avoid or mitigate flood damage. These include passing an updated floodplain ordinance (after review by Arizona Department of Water Resources), making flood-related educational materials available to the public, ensuring that realtors advise prospective buyers if the properties they are considering are in the flood plain and other measures.

An important step forward was taken on March 19 when Insurance Services Office Specialist Kerry Redente paid a visit to Patagonia to review materials the town had prepared to document its progress thus far and to get her guidance on what additional steps are needed to improve the town’s standing. Also sitting in on the meeting were Santa Cruz County Floodplain Coordinator John Hays, Town Manager Dave Teel, and Musick. Redente recommended that the town submit additional information by May 1. Her request includes the submission of such statistics as the acreage, number of insurable buildings and number of elevation certificates issued for buildings in the Special Flood Hazard Area; number and size of parcels preserved as open space; and documentation of efforts to maintain the open natural channel drainage system.

Musick will have his hands full meeting Redente’s requirements but he is committed to seeing the effort through to completion. “My personal goal for this project,” he said, “is to help the whole community by working within the guidelines established by FEMA to help reduce flood hazards and the effect of flooding. This will not only directly help individuals who currently carry flood insurance but will be a benefit for every property owner in Town.” He points out that over 60% of the land within Patagonia is within the floodplain and over 80% of the structures are in this area.

Musick is also quick to note that, even though the CRS program is likely to save homeowners money on their flood insurance, they still might see a rise in their premiums because FEMA is systematically raising rates each year to make up for years of financial losses. The fact remains that without the CRS program, they would pay even higher premiums.