Pascagoula leaders hope DC trip brings change to FEMA flood maps

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Pascagoula's mayor and three city councilmen are in Washington, D.C. to fight for changes to the FEMA flood elevation maps. They said FEMA's post-Katrina mandate to build higher is strangling rebuilding efforts in the city.

Pascagoula Councilman Frank Corder said the current FEMA maps are supposed to help reduce flood damage. But to him, the elevation requirements have been nothing but a hindrance and a headache.

"Say if a young couple wants to add on an extra bedroom in the Pine Crest area, it has to be an additional two, three or possibly four foot higher than the actual house is," Corder said. "It is not good development practice and it causes a lot of problems for us as we are trying to bring this city back."

Councilman Joe Abston said he has also heard an earful of complaints from citizens about FEMA height demands. He said depending on where folks want to build, they will have to go up as high as 19 feet.

"It is just not very fair," Abston said.

The men also blame FEMA's elevation requirements for the lack of rebuilding in the areas of the city they represent. That's why the two are headed to Washington, D.C., hoping to convince Mississippi's Congressional delegation the FEMA maps need some tweaking.

"Most of our housing is below Highway 90, so basically you are affecting the whole city by having the stringent requirements," Abston said.

"We are definitely losing money on redevelopment with having so many restrictions on height requirements as far as building up," Corder said.

"When we don't have people building houses, it hurts our tax base. And when businesses can't locate here, it hurts our tax base," Abston said.

The councilmen said reducing elevation demands by a couple of feet would be a win for the city and citizens. They just hope leaders in Washington see it that way.

"You have the power to tell FEMA to adjust the rate maps, bottom line."

The councilmen plan to meet this week with Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, as well as U.S. Representative Steven Palazzo.

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