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City officials lobbying for change in flood codes

PASCAGOULA — Pascagoula officials are asking lawmakers to amend a state law and allow local governments to enforce federal floodplain codes at hunting and fishing camps so they can qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program.

City attorney Eddie Williams tells the Mississippi Press the change is required because 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.

FEMA recently 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, 2012.

“The problem here is that the FEMA regulations are so tight,” Williams said. “There are very few exceptions to the requirements.”

Pascagoula operations manager Steve Mitchell said a state law passed in 2006, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, made adoption and enforcement of the international building codes mandatory for the lower six Mississippi counties.

Mitchell said he didn’t like the wording of the bill and asked city officials to opt out of that state requirement. Other local governments passed similar opt-out resolutions.

The issue emerged over the summer when spring floods many hunting and fishing camps in the Mississippi Delta.

FEMA requires all structures located in certain flood prone areas must be elevated over the base flood elevation, or the 100-year flood plain. FEMA said there will be no exceptions.

Attorney General Jim Hood asked federal authorities in September that the flood ordinances be waived for camps, and his request was denied in late November.

Mitchell said the way the state law is worded, anything that’s in proximity to hunting or fishing activities to be considered a “camp.” The way property is situated in Pascagoula, he said, nearly everything could be considered a camp.

Hood also had said in his letter that many owners of hunting and fishing camps do not care to buy insurance for their properties.

Mitchell said that amending the law to require such will prompt camps to either become extinct or be redefined.

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