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Apr 2, 2007

FEMA Calls on the Gulf Coast to Adhere to New Maps

Less than two weeks after the City of Biloxi, Mississippi, voted to ignore its latest flood maps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) again called on cities along the gulf coast to adhere to the higher elevation requirements of its "advisory" flood maps.

In a statement released in Biloxi, FEMA said, "...these maps are provided to help state and local officials and homeowners identify existing and increased flood hazards. FEMA continues to encourage communities to use the ABFEs [newer maps] because they more accurately reflect the flood risk than the effective Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) which are 25 years old."

Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA accelerated work on updating and digitizing flood maps along the gulf coast. As a temporary measure, the agency issued Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps (ABFEs) of the region. Those maps called for new construction along the gulf to be substantially higher than what was previously allowed, in some cases as much as 25 feet higher. Many communities have chosen to ignore the newer maps, allowing construction to proceed using the outdated flood maps in effect prior to Katrina.

Legally, FEMA cannot require cities to adhere to the "advisory" maps, but has strongly urged them to do so.

The agency plans to release preliminary versions of the "official" flood maps in late summer. Then will come a series of community meetings, followed by a 90-day appeal and protest period. After that, local communities have six months to adopt the new maps. This process has led to a situation where citizens are racing to rebuild at the lower elevation to save money. Cities along the gulf coast are allowing the rebuilding to proceed, knowing full well that the homes and businesses being built are in serious danger of being destroyed by another hurricane, and lives being lost.

See also: Biloxi Miss. Votes to Ignore Latest Flood Map
Mississippi Communities Continue To Resist Adhering To New Flood Maps
Gulf Coast Reacts To New Flood Maps

Photo: Marina in Biloxi, MS, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina (Courtesy FEMA).