Biloxi Council Hears Federal Buyout Plans

The basic idea is to help buffer Biloxi from future storms. One ingredient of the federal plan is to purchase property that's most vulnerable.

"These are areas that are low lying. They repeatedly flood. They've been damaged by successive hurricanes. So, we are suggesting that over a period of time, a completely voluntary buyout program be put in place," Dr. William Walker told the Biloxi City Council at a Tuesday morning workshop.

That's the key word: voluntary. The federal government has no plans to seize anyone's land.

"Everybody in Eagle Point has been in a panic, thinking we were going to take their property. So, I just wanted to clarify that," said councilman David Fayard.

"That is of absolutely no interest to us. This is an absolutely voluntary, long term program," said Dr. Walker.

The Army Corps coastal improvement plan is based on storm history and probability. Though Katrina was bad enough, a future storm could be even more devastating.

"We also have not seen the strongest storm that can come into the northern Gulf of Mexico. You haven't seen on that's made a direct hit here," said Dr. Susan Reese with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The flood prone Point in Biloxi may be eligible for the buyout proposal. But home owners shouldn't expect to get rich. The feds will pay only appraised value.

"We would be able to offer the appraised value of the land as well as, plus what it would cost to build back the house they used to have, in today's market," said Dr. Walker.

The long range plan could take up to 25 years to implement and could cost in excess of ten billion dollars.

Along with the property buyouts, the plan includes some other more dramatic ideas. Those include building a linear levee along the railroad right of way and installing a special surge gate at the mouth of Biloxi Bay.

The plan won't be finalized until late this year. It will be presented to Congress sometime early next year.