While coastal Mississippians brace for unprecedented increases in federal flood insurance rates, their counterparts who live in the Delta’s flood zones cling to an unofficial promise that they’ll be exempted from the increases — at least for the time being.
The exemption would apply for however long it takes for the Army Corps of Engineers to bring the Mississippi Delta’s levee system up to the standards necessary for recertification, a step that can’t occur until levees on the Louisiana side of the Mississippi River are rebuilt to recertification standards, said Chip Morgan, executive VP of the Stoneville-based Delta Council, the region’s economic development entity.
“They are going to waive the increases,” said Morgan, though he emphasized “we don’t have anything in writing to substantiate that.”
Morgan said the exemption pledge came through meetings with representatives of the Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the government agency whose mapping determines which areas of the country go into designated flood zones and thus subject to significant increases in flood insurance rates under the Biggert-Waters Flood Control Act of 2012.
The flood legislation aims to remove federal subsidies for flood insurance and rid the program of $24 billion deficit within five years.
“Flood insurance is always an issue as it relates to flood insurance,” Morgan said. “Our major issues are really governed by how soon the Corps of Engineers is able to raise the levees in the Delta on the Louisiana side. That controls when we can raise our levees.”
A large number of properties on the eastern side of the Delta are in designated flood zones, especially the stretch from Yazoo City to Indianola, where a 27-mile long protection berm must be raised more than a foot-and-a-half to provide its intended protection.
A recalculation of the 100-year flood mark after the floods of spring 2011 led the Corps of Engineers to conclude the levee must have three to five feet of “free board,” a water free mark from the highest level of a 100-year-flood to the top of the levee.
The levee serves as a tributary backup to the main levees on the Mississippi River and must be raised 1.5 feet, according to the Corps, which has said it lacks money to do the work.