Supervisors mull joining floodplain insurance plan

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Lincoln County supervisors are balancing the pros and cons ofjoining a National Floodplain Insurance Program.

Al Goodman, state coordinator for the Mississippi EmergencyManagement Agency Floodplain Management Division, and his staff metwith the board Monday to discuss the benefits and answer questionsabout the potential pitfalls of the program.

Lincoln County is one of only a handful of Mississippi’s 82counties not participating in the program, which got its start in1968, Goodman said.

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The NFIP is designed to prevent and mitigate damage fromflooding, said Angela Trotter, who presented the plan tosupervisors.

One of the chief benefits of the program, she said, is that byjoining the NFIP county residents become eligible forfederally-backed flood insurance while an entirely new area ofdisaster prevention and mitigation funding opens to the county.

Lincoln County cannot presently offer flood insurance because itis not participating in the national program.

Mississippi is fifth in the nation in total floodplain acreagewith more than five million acres. Lincoln County’s total acreagewas not provided, but Goodman said floodplains existed in each ofthe county’s five districts.

There are some significant drawbacks to the program, however,Goodman readily admitted.

The county would be required to appoint a floodplainadministrator to handle the paperwork and approve or inspectbuilding permits issued for structures in floodplains.

In addition, the county would have to devise a FloodplainManagement Plan and ordinances to require that all new structuresmeet federal guidelines for building in a flood zone and to guidedevelopment away from floodplains.

Existing structures would be grandfathered into the plan.However, any future renovations or additions to those propertieswould have to include those improvements needed to make the entirestructure conform to the federal guidelines.

Supervisors expressed significant concern about the cost ofmaking an entire house conform to the guidelines. However, theywere assured the program also offers residents several options tofinancially assist them in meeting those terms.

“We’re not legally responsible to keep them from building(should they build without conforming to the guidelines), but theywon’t qualify for flood insurance,” said Clifford Galey, LincolnCounty civil defense director.

However, Goodman said experience has shown him that residentswho need to will eventually comply because it is difficult to sellthe home without the needed improvements.

He said the problem does not exist on grandfathered homes. Buton new or renovated homes, banks face hefty fines by providingloans to potential buyers for homes that do not comply with theguidelines.

Supervisors also considered joining the NFIP several years ago,but rejected it because of the additional duties and drawbacks.