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Flood maps raising concerns

March 5, 2010
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Once again FEMA's preliminary floodplain maps raise the ire and suspicion of the public and land surveyors alike--this time in Morehouse Parish, La.

By Wes Helbling
Bastrop Daily Enterprise
Wed Mar 03, 2010, 10:06 AM CST Bastrop, La. - FEMA’s new Flood Insurance Rate Maps for Morehouse Parish are raising serious concerns about accuracy and the financial impact of these maps for local property owners.

The preliminary maps are part of FEMA’s nationwide Flood Map Modernization program which began in 2003. The Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is used to rate flood insurance policies sold through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Morehouse Parish Police Jury Secretary Shasidee Phillips said the parish has taken part in NFIP for several years. The parish flood maps were last updated in 1985. To remain in compliance with the NFIP, the jury must use these maps when issuing building permits and elevation certificates.

Preliminary versions of the new FEMA maps were sent to the jury and incorporated governing bodies in the parish a few weeks ago for review. Whereas the old maps showed only the unincorporated areas of the parish, the new maps depict urban and rural areas all together.

The new maps were prepared for FEMA by Taylor Engineering of Florida. Areas designated as major flood zones (Zone A) are marked in blue, while the rest of the parish is shaded as “Other Flood Areas” (Zone X). 

The legend defines Zone X: “Areas of 0.2 percent annual chance flood; areas of 1 percent annual chance flood with average depths of less than 1 foot or with drainage areas less than 1 square mile; and areas protected by levees with 1 percent annual chance flood.”

The maps do not distinguish which areas fit into these subcategories, nor do they distinguish between areas of high and low elevation. All of Morehouse Parish is simply shaded as “Other Flood Areas.” 

Phillips said a Community Coordination Meeting is slated for March 23. Local officials and citizens will have the opportunity to give their input about the new maps to FEMA reps then.

Frank Messinger of Messinger & Associates Inc., Professional Land Surveyors, said he believes the new maps are “almost a deliberate attempt to force people to pay for flood insurance” who will probably never be at risk of flooding.

“As I understand it, they’re doing the same thing to all of the other parishes,” he said. ...

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