Confusion Reigns Over FEMA Elevations

The news that Biloxi does not have to adopt the advisory base flood elevation levels caught the mayor and two council members by surprise.

Bob Durrin of the National Flood Insurance told them, "There will be no impact on the, no negative impact on the flood insurance, no negative impact on your program status, no negative impact on your performance ratings or anything else. It will all remain the same."

But Durrin concedes that's according to FEMA. And after some pushing from the mayor, he admits if the city doesn't adopt new flood elevations, Biloxi could have trouble getting some of the $5 billion approved by Congress for Mississippi storm relief.

Mayor A.J. Holloway asked Durrin point blank, "If we don't accept or pass this elevation they're gonna be able to get their grants?"

Durrin responded, "Yes, they will."

"That's the first damned time I've heard that," Holloway replied.

The money comes from HUD and is funneled through community development block grants. Mayor Holloway says it's his understanding the city must follow the revised elevations to get it.

"I don't know if it's from the Governor or MDA or HUD stipulations when it passed the Congress, that in order to be eligible for this, you have to be able to show the city has adopted the elevations that FEMA is recommending."

Meanwhile, FEMA's new elevation maps won't be ready until the end of this year. Biloxi's Community Development Director says home and business owners can still rebuild now, using 1984 guidelines.

"That would remain effective until we adopt a new flood map, be it advisory or the permanent maps which will come out later this year," says Jerry Creel.

The updated maps are expected to show elevations nine to eleven feet higher than the current requirements.

While FEMA revises the maps, the agency strongly recommends that the city adopt temporary elevation levels. But in Monday afternoon's meeting, the council never discussed the elevations, instead, voting 5-2 to table the issue.