Itawamba County, Fulton invest in fighting FEMA

By Adam Armour/The Itawamba County Times

FULTON – In the first steps in what is expected to be a long journey, the city of Fulton and Itawamba County have approved funding an independent study of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Fulton to combat changes to the area’s flood plain maps.
Both the Fulton Board of Aldermen and the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors recently approved spending a combined $5,000 to hire civil engineering and surveying company Mendrop Wages to conduct a study on the portion of the waterway which runs through Itawamba County, primarily in the Fulton area.
The costs are being split between the two entities, with the city funding $2,000 and the county $3,000. The actual cost of the study is $10,000; a matching grant through the Tennessee Valley Authority will cover the remaining half of the expense.
The information garnered by Mendrop Wages will be used against the Federal Emergency Management Agency and its proposed changes to the county’s flood plain maps. If put into effect come September, these maps could prove disastrous for both Fulton and Itawamba County, especially the businesses that fall within the new, floodable areas.
The changes would have a negative impact on future development in the area.
For example, the port would fall within the new flood zones, preventing the county from seeking federal or state aid for new industry looking to build there.
Additionally, several major businesses and institutions would fall under the new flood zones, dramatically increasing the insurance rates for these entities.
Buildings that would, in some way, be negatively impacted by the proposed flood plains mapping include 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; Max Home and the Itawamba County Port. Numerous residential properties also will fall in these new flood plains.
FEMA will host a public meeting at 4:30 p.m. on May 6 at the Fulton Grammar School to discuss the new maps.
The county and city both contend these proposed maps were created without accounting for the effect the construction of the waterway has had on the area. Prior to its construction, flooding throughout the area was common; however, the area has not flooded in the 25 years since the waterway has been in operation.
According to Fulton Mayor Paul Walker, the research being gathered by Mendrop Wages will be invaluable when arguing the validity of the current flood plain maps.
“This information will be used to argue with FEMA,” Walker told the board. “We’ve got to try to prove our point. … We’ve got to have this done to present at that first meeting before we can move forward.”