New flood plain maps may impact insurance

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Governments, banks and lending companies around the country willrecognize new and resized flood plains in Lincoln County regardlessof whether supervisors choose to join a federal flood insuranceprogram offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials said during aTuesday meeting with local leaders that the newly augmented floodplains shown on their most recent maps will supercede flood plainson the county’s older maps.

MEMA Flood Plain Management Specialist Angela Trotter said thenew maps may put some residents in a flood plain for the firsttime. But if the county does not adopt MEMA’s new maps and join theNational Flood Insurance Program, those residents will beineligible to purchase low-cost flood insurance from thegovernment.

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Even without NFIP membership, however, she said banks andlending companies would still recognize the flood plains andrequire flood insurance for residents at risk.

“If the county is not in NFIP, (a mortgage company) might haveto require commercial insurance, and it’s more expensive,” Trottersaid.

District Two Supervisor Bobby Watts, the only supervisor toattend the meeting for local government leaders, was all but soldon NFIP after looking at the new satellite maps of his district,which showed several flood plains shaded in blue. Though cheapflood insurance for county residents is important, Watts wasequally impressed with NFIP’s promise of disaster mitigationfunding and grant eligibility.

“If you really have a flood and the road gets blowed out, youcan get help to get your road back,” he said after questioningTrotter.

Watts said the county would not have to hire a new flood plainadministrator to participate in NFIP, but could appoint an existingemployee.

While supervisors previously leaned toward giving the potentialduty to Lincoln County Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey, Wattsfavored appointing 911 Coordinator Janice Haley. He said she couldcheck off residents against the new MEMA maps during the course ofher duties.

“We don’t have to come up with a salary, all we have to do is bea member,” Watts said.

Concerns still exist as to whether or not NFIP is actuallyneeded in Lincoln County.

According to the new MEMA maps and estimates, 53.87 square milesof Lincoln County – roughly 9.1 percent – is covered by floodplains. MEMA officials identified Bear Creek, Big Creek, WestTopisaw Creek and the Bogue Chitto River and its forks as thecounty’s four main flood plains.

But how many residents actually live in those plains remains tobe seen.

Board Attorney Bob Allen said he would begin preparing a list ofthe county’s concerns for Trotter and other MEMA officials, who arescheduled to appear before supervisors during their May 18 meetingfor more discussion on NFIP.

“We’ve had population shifts, we’ve more disasters in the lastthree to five years than we’ve ever had before, so it’s definitelyworth looking into,” Allen said.

Lincoln County is one of only four counties in the state thatare not members of NFIP, but that number may be shrinking. MEMAofficials said neighboring Franklin County had sent in its NFIPapplication, and Choctaw County has requested the application.

Several Brookhaven officials also attended Tuesday’smeeting.

Conversation also centered around new mapping software that willhelp determine exactly which homes are in flood plains. Potentiallythe software could be linked online so that homeowners could bejust as informed on flood plain areas as city officials.

“The software, the way the guy explained it, they said they weregoing to get out a link, and it may be something we can put on ourWeb site where individuals can go to this Web site and look uptheir house and see if they’re in a flood plain,” said BuildingInspector Chip Gennaro. “The way I understood it, they’re workingon a process to where everyone doesn’t need to have it to use it.You can go to a Web site to review it, without having to buyit.”

Gennaro said the software should be quite a help to the publicworks office because it will actually show where the lines of theflood plains are, and will provide detailed views of residences inthe area.

“The software will help us a lot because you can zoom in reallyclose and look at somebody’s house,” he said. “You can also see theoutline of the flood plain, and whether it actually runs behindtheir house or anywhere close to it.”