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Nov 20, 2005

Gulf Coast Reacts To New Flood Maps

Officials along the Mississippi Gulf Coast have had some time to review the new Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Friday. They don't like what they see.

According to station WLOX, officials in Long Beach, Miss. are complaining that adherence to the new maps would, "keep people from rebuilding their homes close to the beach." The Picayune Item reports that people that attended a meeting with FEMA in Jackson County, Miss. last Wednesday complained that it was difficult to understand the changes in the new maps because there were no current flood plain maps to compare them with.
In Biloxi, Mississippi, city officials told the Jackson Clarion Ledger that homeowners whose property were placed in new higher-risk areas on the new FEMA maps may not be able to afford to rebuild due to the higher construction costs. Knight-Ridder/Tribune reported that one Biloxi, Mississippi city councilman asked FEMA, "Are we not having a knee-jerk reaction to a 100-year storm? Basically, we're going to look at houses becoming completely unaffordable. You're looking at a house that's 15 feet in the air."

The new flood maps raised the 100-year flood elevations from 3 to 8 feet. FEMA, "strongly urged" local officials to use the new maps to govern rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina. According to Knight-Ridder/Tribune, here's the official reaction so far from the three Mississippi counties covered by the new flood maps:

  • Jackson County - Adopted 4 feet above the current elevation as the standard for new construction.
  • Harrison County - Has declined to raise elevation requirements.
  • Hancock County - Is issuing building permits under the old flood maps.
Once the new flood maps are officially adopted, local communities will have to adopt them or risk losing their eligibility to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. However, that will not come for another eighteen months. Until then, local governments control what standards will govern rebuilding efforts.