OUR OPINION: Flood plain process change could mean better maps

By NEMS Daily Journal

U.S. senators Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss., went on record Dec. 15 in support of a new risk assessment process for the National Flood Insurance Program, encouraging community leaders, engineers and people in flood-prone areas to assess and then comment on a new “levee-inclusive” assessment process that will replace the “without levee” method criticized by the lawmakers earlier this year.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has opened a 45-day public comment period on the new NFIP “levee-inclusive” proposal for assessing the flood risk for people living behind levees. The new policy was drafted to replace a “without levees” policy that disregarded many sections of healthy levees and flood control structures in the process of updating Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).
Flood insurance is required for most structures with federally insured mortgages in flood plains. The Town Creek flood plain is well known in Northeast Mississippi because substantial parts of Tupelo and Lee County are in it, with heavy commercial and residential development on parts of it.
FEMA officials briefed lawmakers on the proposed analysis and mapping process. Cochran, Wicker and senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., led a successful bipartisan Senate effort in February to convince FEMA to end its “without levee” modeling process. In March, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate directed his agency to discontinue the practice.
Wicker and Cochran both said they are encouraged by the biartisan approach, but won’t rest until flood maps are changed to reflect the new assessment method.
The public comment notice was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 15.
Under the NFIP, if FEMA determines an area has a 1 percent annual chance of flooding, property owners in that area are required to purchase National Flood Insurance Program coverage to protect against such hazards if their mortgage is backed by the federal government.
Communities across the country, including some in Northeast Mississippi, have complained that FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have disregarded local flood control projects and repairs that may provide some level of protection.
Comments must be identified by docket ID FEMA-2011-0025, and comment can be submitted the following ways:
* Federal Rulemaking Portal: www.regulations.gov
* Mail: Regulatory Affairs Division, Office of Chief Counsel, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Room 835, 500 C Street, SW., Washington, DC 20472-3100.
* NFIP Levees Comment website: http://www.NFIP-levees.com
* Federal Register Notice and Information: http://federalregister.gov/a/2011-32128