Elevation Questions Hinder Some Harrison Co. Rebuilding

HARRISON COUNTY (WLOX) -- Paul Joyce has been trying to piece his life back together since Katrina's winds tore up his mobile home on South Boulevard in West Harrison County. He's been living in a FEMA trailer ever since, and would like to rebuild on land he owns one block south of his FEMA trailer. But he says he can't move forward with his life and rebuild until the county adopts the official flood elevation levels.

"We had it all set up, but as soon as the county wouldn't approve this with all the elevation, SBA pulled out. So I said, 'Now what am I going to do?'" Joyce said.

Joyce said the code enforcement office has recommended that he and others in the area build at least 22 feet above base level.

"Everybody here is complaining about it. I mean, I can see if you were sitting on the beach or something, or an area where you see it got flooded. You can see it never did," Joyce said.

"You just get sick and tired after a while, fed up. Like I said, they're big business people. They don't care about the little guy."

Joyce said the flood elevation maps produced by FEMA at a recent convention at the Coliseum make more sense when it comes to rebuilding in the area.

"FEMA has it right on the money. FEMA wants this area to be X. You can put it right on the ground," Joyce said, pointing to a map of his property.

Joyce believes the longer residents in the county have to wait for the county to adopt the elevation levels, the longer their dreams of rebuilding are put on hold.

"They want these fancy plantation rental houses for people to live in, that's what I see. If it ain't big and fancy, you can't have it here. That's the kind of mentality they've got," Joyce said.

Richard Herrin, who is Code Director of the Harrison County Bureau Area says the Harrison County Board of Supervisors has the final say on when to adopt the digital flood insurance rating map. That's what will determine the minimum elevations for all areas of the county.

Right now, the county is still waiting for a letter of determination from FEMA. Herrin said once the county receives that letter, the new elevation levels will be adopted within six months.