House passes bill to enforce federal floodplains codes

JACKSON — The Mississippi House has approved a bill to allow local governments to enforce federal floodplains codes at hunting and fishing camps and remain in the National Flood Insurance Program.

The bill would remove the hunting- and-fishing-camp exemption from floodplains regulations. The bill was held for the possibility of more House debate. Similar bills are pending in the Senate.

The state’s exemption on such properties from meeting flood code conflicts with federal law that requires all properties in floodplains to build to code.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down a request from the state for a waiver for such property.

The National Flood Insurance Act makes noncompliant hunting and fishing camps ineligible to purchase federal flood insurance.

FEMA officials have said that if the state wants to its participation in NFIP, then the Legislature must change the law. If nothing is done, FEMA said Mississippi communities would be suspended from the NFIP effective on May 5.

“You’re talking about something that could put thousands of mortgages in this state in default,” Rep. Jeffrey Guice, R-Ocean Springs, told the Sun Herald.

Rep. Scott DeLano, R-Biloxi, said FEMA hasn’t guaranteed the bill would solve the problem, but lawmakers have been in discussion with the agency and he believes the issue will be worked out.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said a failure to resolve the issue would have a “devastating” effect, not just because of the federal flood insurance program. It would cause drastic increases in state insurance wind pool rates.

Chaney said there are nearly 88,000 NFIP policies in Mississippi, insuring more than $18 billion worth of property.

The bill is House Bill 773.

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