Fulton, county withdraw lawsuit against FEMA

Itawamba County and the City of Fulton have officially withdrawn a federal injunction against the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), filed last month.
As of Sept. 23, Fulton and Itawamba County, along with the city of Amory, Monroe County and Three Rivers Planning and Development, have dropped litigation against the federal emergency agency. The injunction was a direct response from local governments along the Tenn-Tom Waterway to FEMA’s threat to de-certify area levees and initiate a new floodplain map that would have potentially hurt Itawamba County’s local industries and other agencies.
According to Fulton Mayor Paul Walker, who originally spoke to The Times about the injunction, the situation that spurred the lawsuit has changed, negating the need for a legal battle at this time. Having garnered support from state representatives and congressmen, both the Fulton Board of Aldermen and the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors recently voted to withdraw litigation for the time being.
“We felt like we would be better represented if we withdrew the injunction and let these people from our state senators’ and congressmen’s offices work in getting this situation with the levees worked out,” Walker said.
Mississippi ethics laws wouldn’t allow state leaders to become personally involved in a lawsuit against the federal government, which meant that local boards would lose support from higher up officials. According to Walker, Sen. Thad Cochran recommended dropping the case for the time being.
“We’re trying to find a solution to this as quickly as possible,” Walker said.
The catalyst to the lawsuit was new floodplain mapping that would have created new flood zones in currently occupied areas along the Tenn-Tom Waterway, negatively affecting businesses and homes in those areas and potentially harming future development.
Buildings that would have been affected in some way by the proposed flood plains mapping included a large portion of Itawamba Community College’s campus, including the Davis Event Center and Sheffield Hall; Tombigbee Electric Power Association; Kline Heating and Cooling; the Itawamba County School District bus shop; all the land above the Access Road, including MDOT, PSP-Monotech, Tri-State Lumber; Hickory Hill; Max Home and the Itawamba County Port.
By filing the injunction, local governments were able to prevent the implementation of the new floodplain maps.
“The injunction did buy us some time to get everything together before they decided to give us new zoning maps,” Walker said, stating that it was a positive light in a dark situation.
Fixing the levees to bring them up to flood control standards, as requested by FEMA and the Corps of Engineers, would have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, the mayor said previously.
Although the issue is currently being worked out diplomatically, Walker said the city and county would be able to refile the lawsuit against FEMA if necessary.

Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing adam.armour@itawamba360.com or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.

Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times