FEMA Elevations Too High For Some

Jeff Leoni's house in Henderson Point was built nine feet above the ground. That wasn't enough to spare it from Katrina. So to rebuild, Leoni will have to go up 20 feet or higher.

"It wouldn't look very good to have a house that far up in the trees. The other thing is, it's not just myself, but a lot of people in the community are older folks and I don't think climbing two flights before reaching the first liveable portion of their home is going to be a good solution for them."

Leoni and some of his neighbors were looking for any kind of solution from the Harrison County Supervisors. FEMA's recommending elevation levels of up to 23 feet in Leoni's area.

"None of the homes in Henderson Point would've survived if they were meeting the current requirements that FEMA's asking for. Not any of them. The water was higher than that."

The supervisors are worried if they don't accept FEMA's elevation requirements, the county will be dropped from the national flood insurance program. They say that puts them between a rock and a hard place.

But Leoni says it seems the supervisors are going along with FEMA without much thought.

"It seems to me that they're going along with it blindly without even questioning it. And it seems like the cities don't have that same constraint."

The board pointed out that the cities have neither rejected or accepted the FEMA figures and Supervisor Marlin Ladner says in the next 12 to 18 months, the government recommendations will become requirements.

"We still need to make sure that we get them right the first time and influence FEMA to be consistent in their requirements," says District 4 Supervisors William Martin.

Supervisor Marlin Ladner added, "And that's the problem we're struggling with now Mr. Martin - that we don't. There's no assurances."

The supervisors said they will ask FEMA to consider the citizens' concerns before making the requirements the final word.

Leoni says he would like to see the supervisors encourage FEMA to adopt a ten or eleven foot elevation requirement. He says that would look better and not require people to have so many steps up to their house.