Flood plain concerns aired at supervisors meeting

Published 11:55 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017


NATCHEZ — County supervisors approved updated language to the flood plain ordinance last week and one supervisor’s effort to have eight houses removed from the official flood plain failed for lack of additional support.

District 2 Supervisor David Carter said approximately eight houses in the Beau Pre subdivision, technically within the flood plain, are elevated to the point where the homeowners do not believe a flood is likely. Some of the houses are on Cherrybark Lane, Carter said.

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“From an aerial map it makes sense,” Carter said. “But if you go out and look, a lot of the homes are higher than other homes out of the flood area.”

Carter said being within the Federal Emergency Management Agency zone would grant them access to federal funds in the event of a flood, but to the homeowners, the minimum chance of a catastrophic flood is not worth the $500 to $600 per month insurance costs.

“The insurance is in case Noah comes back on his ark and wipes everyone out, which would be catastrophic to the entire neighborhood, not just the homes in the flood plain,” Carter said. “The chance of a flood is not zero, but it’s less than one percent.”

On the state level, if approved by the county’s emergency management director, Robert Bradford, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency can remove individual houses from the flood map.

Carter said the homeowners are willing to pay for the engineering study that would be required.

Carter said Bradford has signed off on two, though Bradford retorted he has only signed off on one, and previous director Stan Owens had signed off on some.

Bradford said the homeowners in the area had not been paying the insurance previously. However, when someone tried to get a loan from the bank recently to purchase one of the residences in the flood area, the issue of the insurance came up for other homeowners in the area.

Bradford said the flood area maps have been around since the 1970s, but no one had previously enforced the issue.

Carter said these homeowners are inheriting something they did not know was an issue when they moved into the houses. Carter said if these homeowners asked for a tax decrease, he did not know how the county could vote no.

Bradford said he was not comfortable allowing the homeowners to opt out, as should a flood occur, it would likely impact the federal dollars the county receives.

Bradford said he would be more comfortable having a base flood elevation study done for the whole area.

“The buddy-buddy signing off on stuff is not the right way,” Bradford said. “My integrity goes a long way.”

Carter said if the county did a base flood elevation study, then the county would have to pay for it. Carter said engineers with Jordan, Kaiser and Sessions had told him that MEMA did not accept a BFE from them, so that the study would likely have to come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which could cause a delay.

“I hate to spend that money and them not approve it,” Carter said.

County Engineer Jim Marlow said he could not estimate the costs of a base flood elevation study.

Carter said he hoped the board would approve Bradford approving the removal of these houses. Carter said the homeowners are willing to take the risk so if a flood were to happen, it would not come back on Bradford or the county.

District 3 Supervisor Angela Hutchins said if a flood occurred, the homeowners would not hesitate to call Bradford and county leaders to find out what the county could do for them.

“The minute something like that happens they will be calling us, ‘Why are we not receiving funding?’” Hutchins said.

Carter did not get a second for his request.

However, the board approved an update to the flood plain ordinance’s language. The ordinance had not been updated since the 1980s, Bradford said. Approval would not impact Carter’s request, Bradford said.

Carter said Wednesday he met with Mississippi Insurance Department Commissioner Mike Chaney, who shared some resources and contacts that might help update the flood maps.

“We are using outdated maps for a current issue,” Carter said. “The main thing is we want to keep people from having to pay severely for insurance for something that is not a concern.”