Two northeastern counties balking at flood zone maps

ITAWAMBA COUNTY and MONROE COUNTY — Two counties in the northeastern part of the state are fighting flood zone designations on new maps that are part of a modernization program spearheaded by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Officials in Itawamba and Monroe counties say the flood zone designation would hurt economic development plans for industrial sites.

The counties have met a Jan. 4 deadline to appeal the flood zones, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported.

“We’ll have engineers and contractors to look at it and review all the data submitted,” said Al Goodman, MEMA state flood insurance coordinator. “There’s no particular time frame from here.”

Still, the sooner the matter is resolved the better, Greg Deakle, Itawamba County Development Council executive director, told the newspaper.

“The information we produced shows flood levels about three or four feet lower than what MEMA produced,” Deakle said. “What we have done is given all that new modeling with very basic maps to them in an appeal explaining the methodology used. The feedback we’ve initially gotten from MEMA is positive – they like what it shows – but we’re waiting to hear something official.”

Both counties lie along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, which generally has been one of their most important economic development selling points.

Amory Mayor Howard Boozer told the Monroe Journal that earthen berms along the Tenn-Tom have acted as levees for the past 25 years, preventing flooding on adjacent land.

The new Itawamba flood maps place in a flood zone a prime piece of property that the BlueFire ethanol plant is considering, Deakle said.

“Since they are considering this piece of property, they helped pay for the modeling because it’s in their best interest,” Deakle said. “There are no existing structures at the port or in town in the flood zone under what we produced.”

MEMA and other state agencies around the country are acting as surrogates for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to complete the federal Flood Map Modernization Initiative, which has been under way for several years.

As of Dec. 14, 2010, 49 of the state’s 82 counties had fully implemented the new maps, including 11 of 16 northeast Mississippi counties. Prentiss County’s new maps are scheduled to take effect Monday and Clay County’s later this year, while no effective date has been set for Marshall County.

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