Bay St. Louis flood ordinance now in compliance with FEMA

Bay St. Louis flood ordinance now in compliance with FEMA

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Near the Jourdan River in Bay St. Louis it's not hard to find houses built on top of fill dirt.

Alice Forkel just moved into her home earlier in the year, and believes the way her home was constructed using fill dirt makes it secure.

"The pilings on my house are 10 feet into the ground on top of fill dirt. We're fine," Forkel said.

But a recent notice to Bay St. Louis called into question the city's floodplain ordinance concerning fill dirt. FEMA gave the city a deadline of May 8 to change the ordinance or residents risked losing flood insurance coverage.

On Thursday, MEMA Executive Director Lee Smithson outlined what was wrong with the original ordinance.

"A lot owner could put two feet of fill dirt on his lot without providing any further documentation and FEMA is very particular about that," Smithson said.

After listening to Smithson's recommendations, the City Council approved an ordinance adjustment bringing the city into compliance. The updated ordinance doesn't mean property owners won't be able to use fill dirt going forward, it just means they'll need to take the proper procedures in the future.

"Lot owners who want to build on a lot may still be able to put two feet of fill dirt on there, but it just requires an engineer to look at it and then be verified by a certified floodplain manager," Smithson said.

According to Smithson a floodplain manager should look over fill dirt plans to make sure it would be the best choice for construction.

"A certified floodplain manager understands the hydrology of the surrounding property and would be able to say two feet of fill dirt is not what you need to protect your home from being flooded. There are other alternatives other than just fill dirt," Smithson said.

Anyone wanting to use fill dirt for construction should contact the city's floodplain manager and building department for details on how to move forward.

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