Flood program membership still in limbo

Published 7:00 pm Friday, January 27, 2012

More than a year after Lincoln Countysupervisors passed a resolution stating their intent to join theNational Flood Insurance Program, it is unclear whether the countyhas made progress toward joining the program.

    Board attorney Bob Allen has been in talks with the MississippiEmergency Management Agency (MEMA) to negotiate an ordinanceacceptable to state and federal officials and to countysupervisors, said Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop. Allen could not bereached for comment.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manages the NFIP,and according to a FEMA site communities may join the program “byadopting and enforcing floodplain management ordinances to reducefuture flood damage.” Those ordinances would require newconstruction and major renovations in the county to meet certainstandards.

    Membership in the national program makes cheaper flood insuranceavailable to residents living in flood plains, said Clifford Galey,local civil defense director.

    Lincoln County residents have appeared before the supervisorsbefore, complaining of flood insurance rates as high as $200 amonth. Membership with the NFIP could bring rates as low as $300 to$400 a year, according to past presentations before the board.

    Aside from the required flood management ordinances, the countywould need to designate a flood plain manager, according toinformation about the program FEMA makes available. The countywould also need some means to enforce the new building codes.

    The supervisors passed a resolution in December 2010 stating theirintent to join the program, but that resolution did not propose orpass the required ordinances.

     Lincoln County is one ofonly a few counties in the state not participating in the NFIP.

    Bishop said once Allen has crafted an ordinance acceptable to allparties, it will presumably be brought to the board with avote.

    However, FEMA dictates certain minimum standards a building codeordinance must meet. It is unclear whether those minimum standardsare acceptable to county supervisors, who have been leery aboutplacing too many regulations over county residents.

    What is also unclear is whether the current board would approve anordinance. The December 2010 resolution passed by a 4-1 vote, butthree new members have joined the board since then.

    One of those three, District Five Supervisor Dudley Nations, saidhe does not have enough information to have an opinion on thesubject.

    “It’s just been discussed very shortly with me,” Nations said.”Really, I haven’t been over it enough to make adetermination.”

    Nations said Allen was gathering more information about the programto present to the board.

    New FEMA maps that became effective in 2010 put 53.87 square milesof the county in a flood plain, about 9.1 percent. What percentageof the county’s population lives in those flood plain areas isunclear.

    The 2010 maps also placed areas of Lincoln County in a flood plainthat had never been marked as in a flood plain before. The mapsidentified Bear Creek, Big Creek, West Topisaw Creek and the BogueChitto River and its forks as the county’s four main floodplains.

    Though the county is not a member, Brookhaven has been a member ofthe National Flood Insurance program since 1977. Brookhaven’s floodplain administrator Steve Moreton said among its buildings codes,the floor of any building constructed within a flood plain must be1 foot above the level of a 100-year flood.

    This requires an elevation shoot on site to determine the floodlevel before construction can begin.

    The 1-foot requirement is only a minimum. Moreton said the highersomeone builds above the flood line, the cheaper insurance premiumsare.

     The biggest responsibilityof membership is the requirement to have and enforce buildingordinances, according to Moreton. He said the city buildinginspector ensures compliance with regulations controlling buildingin a flood plain, but pointed out the county has no comparableoffice.

    Speaking of the NFIP, Moreton said, “If you let people build inways they’re not supposed to, they’ll kick you out.”