Biloxi Adopts FEMA's Base Flood Elevation Levels

In 120 days, Biloxi homeowners will be required to build their homes according to FEMA's advisory base flood elevation levels, which are up to 25 feet above sea level in some areas.

The City Council adopted the new levels in a close vote Tuesday.

Mayor A.J. Holloway and John Labrune, FEMA's Mitigation Branch Chief for Biloxi urged the council to vote in favor of the new levels.

Labrune says Tuesday's vote will expand the flood zone, and will open the door for some 600 Biloxi homeowners to get increased cost compliance funds.

"If you have a flood insurance policy in effect today, and you had one in effect during Katrina, then you carry a rider called the increased cost of compliance, and it entitles you to funds for mandatory elevation of your home. It's up to $30,000 to do that," Labrune said.

The vote was a close one -- 4 to 3.

Councilman Bill Stallworth pleaded with the Council to wait until FEMA issues the city new flood elevation maps, which are expected to be complete by mid-summer.

"I would have liked to have seen when they present the maps. We should adopt them, but since we don't have a clue what those final numbers will be, it would have made good sense not to adopt them, but to have allowed people to build back," Councilman Stallworth said.

Councilman Stallworth says homeowner grant money is just now starting to trickle in, and that the vote will hinder people who live in Biloxi's hardest hit areas - Ward 2, Ward 1, and Ward 7 - from rebuilding.

"I think it was a travesty of justice. The people who were most affected by this storm just got royally messed over. People who voted on this in the affirmative, basically had no one, very few areas in their areas to be affected," Stallworth said.

Councilmen Ed Gemmill, Mike Fitzpatrick, Tom Wall, and Charles Harrison voted in favor of the new levels. Councilmen David Fayard, Bill Stallworth and George Lawrence voted against the measure.

The City of Biloxi has posted important flood elevation information on its website for homeowners. To see a map showing existing and proposed flood zones, click here. To see a detailed flood zone map showing elevations, click here.