Revised flood maps relieve some Saltillo homeowners

SALTILLO – Many Saltillo residents were breathing easier last week as they took a look at revised flood plain maps for their community.
A previous map presented for comment in early 2008 put about 100 residential and business properties in a high-risk flood area where they had not been before, creating the prospect of higher insurance premiums.
“Last year when people saw the first maps they were up in arms,” Mayor Bill Williams said. “This isn’t something the city had any control over, so I wanted the state officials to come and be available to explain to people exactly what had happened.”
Vigorous growth in Saltillo over the past 20 years or so has changed the landscape with more subdivisions and more paved areas. With the development has come increased flood risk in those areas.
However, Williams said earlier studies of Saltillo’s flood zones did not take into account a nearby flood control lake that was federally funded and built and has been maintained since the early 1970s.
When MDEQ incorporated that data, it lowered its calculation of the base flood elevation by 8 feet, a huge and welcome change.
“No one had ever seen the department make such a dramatic change in the base flood elevation before, and the 70 or so residents downstream were overjoyed. Unfortunately, that still left about 30 or so whose situation didn’t change and they’re still in the high-risk area.”
Presenting revised maps for the Saltillo area was the last step before adopting Lee County’s Flood Insurance Rating Map.
Of Mississippi’s about 30 million acres, about one in six acres is at risk of flooding, making the state generally high risk, said Al Goodman, state coordinator of the National Flood Insurance Program.
However, areas along rivers, the Delta and the Gulf Coast are generally more prone to flooding than Northeast Mississippi, he said.
“We don’t have a lot of flood damage up here,” Goodman said during his recent trip to Saltillo. Some low areas in Tupelo as well as areas in Saltillo have experienced more flooding than other parts of the region.
Floods are the most destructive natural disaster in terms of economic loss in Mississippi, with more than $2.7 billion paid in claims since 1978, MEMA said.
Though compliance with flood plain management is voluntary for each community, only homeowners who live in communities that participate may obtain federal flood insurance.
By September 2010, Mississippi expects to have flood plain maps finalized for all 82 counties, completing a project that has been under way since 2003.
So far new maps have been delivered to 33 counties, said Stephen Champlin of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Office of Geology.
Benton, Chickasaw, Lee and Oktibbeha counties are the Northeast Mississippi counties that have received completed maps.
The maps are used to determine what areas throughout the state are more prone to flooding, and to determine risk for the National Flood Insurance Program.
“In the early 2000s the federal government made a decision to remap the entire country and also include digital mapping for use with geographic information systems,” Champlin said.
Before the flood map update began, Champlin said it was primarily cities and scattered communities that had the flood maps, but now maps will include all counties.
MDEQ is is responsible for revising the maps, while the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is handling the flood insurance aspect of the program.

Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

 

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal