JACKSON — Attorney General Jim Hood is requesting the help of Mississippi’s congressional delegation in asking for a federal waiver of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) flood mitigation ordinance for hunting and fishing camps.
A recent opinion by the Attorney General’s Office highlights a conflict between state law and FEMA regulations. The opinion recognizes an exemption under state law for hunting and fishing camps from county-adopted flood mitigation ordinances. However, in order for counties to be eligible for flood aid, FEMA is requiring that the counties adopt and enforce these ordinances without regard for the state law exception.
“I am asking our federal delegation to help us get FEMA to honor state law and waive enforcement of flood ordinances on flooded fish and hunting camps,” said Hood.
As a condition of participation in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) local communities were required by FEMA to adopt the flood mitigation ordinance prepared and presented to them by FEMA. One of the provisions of the ordinance requires the first floor of buildings in certain flood-prone areas be elevated over the base flood elevation.
“We have learned from certain counties in the Delta that FEMA is requiring the local governing authorities to enforce the ordinance against all structures in the affected areas including hunting and fishing camps that are not flood-insured and whose owners do not wish to be insured,” said Hood in a letter to Mississippi’s congressional leaders. “These camps are on the west side of the levee. The local authorities have been told by persons from both MEMA and FEMA that if they exempt these hunting and fishing camps from the ordinance, the counties, and possibly the entire state, could be prohibited from participating in the NFIP. Under our interpretation of state law, however, counties and cities are in fact prohibited from enforcing building codes against duly qualified hunting and fishing camps. Miss. Code Ann. Section 17-2-9 (3) (1072) as amended.
“While we certainly do not wish to jeopardize our continued participation in NFIP, I see no valid rationale for requiring hunting and fishing camps near the river which are not flood-insured to comply with flood-related elevation and other requirements. It would seem that this matter could be resolved by FEMA allowing the counties to obtain sworn affidavits from these homeowners that they will not seek any federal insurance or aid without first meeting the requirements of the flood ordinance.”
Hood cautioned that the conflict could end up in court if an agreement is not reached with FEMA.