Bay Leaders Prepare For Battle Over FEMA Flood Maps

Bay St. Louis city leaders are playing beat the clock in their protest of FEMA's new flood elevation maps. A 90 day appeal period began about ten days ago, and city leaders are wasting no time building a case to show FEMA some flaws in the calculations.

"There's one over here with an 18 foot flood elevation requirement," Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre said.

Bay St. Louis city leaders say FEMA's map for the future is a nothing but a dead end with flood zones and elevation requirements that will make rebuilding this city nearly impossible.

"We have whole areas of the city that were in a 'B' zone or a 'C' zone pre-Katrina, and now are going to be in an 'A' or 'V' zone. So we're going from no requirements to 26 foot elevation requirements in some cases," Favre said.

Ward 2 Councilman Jim Thriffiley says FEMA experts never set foot in Bay St. Louis before coming up with the new maps.

"We had a meeting with the elected officials in Hancock County and the bureaucrats from FEMA, MEMA, and their scientists. When I spoke with many of them and asked how they liked Bay St. Louis, they said this was the first time they had been here. That really concerns me," Thriffiley said. "How can you mandate, dictate our lifestyle and quality of life, and have never seen the place?"

The city turned to experts in a national engineering firm to review the FEMA maps, but last week, that firm backed out.

"Unfortunately, CDM notified us that they can't stay with the contract because of a conflict of interest. They've done work on the maps for FEMA," Favre said.

The only way FEMA might change its elevation recommendations is if the city can prove technical or scientific errors.

"FEMA spent two years down on the Coast putting together and using the best of the experts to put together. Now they ask us to put together something within 90 days, and we can't use the best experts because they have already used them. They've got us in a catch back," Ward 3 Councilman Jeffrey Reed said.

Though Bay St. Louis leaders say the deck seems stacked against them, FEMA's flood maps must be changed. The topic will be discussed in-depth at a special city council meeting this Thursday at the City Hall council chamber on Main Street.