Central flood plain study sent to FEMA
CENTRAL — A $35,000 flood plain study the city conducted of the Beaver Bayou area could save owners of about 2,000 homes more than $2 million a year in flood insurance premiums.
In the case of Jeanie Barnett, who has owned a home on Crystal Drive in the Crystal Place subdivision for more than 25 years, the city’s recent study will remove her home from being listed in a designated flood plain area.
“This is something that will not only affect me and my family but it will greatly affect growth in Central for years,” Barnett said Friday.
The problem, Central City Councilman Aaron Moak said, is FEMA using outdated elevation data for recent flood plain maps.
The cost of flood insurance premiums are based on Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plain maps.
Moak said the most current data FEMA used for the area is from 1991.
“And that was way before Hurricane Katrina,” he said.
Once residents questioned the elevations FEMA was using, Moak asked the City Council in late 2012 for $35,000 to have a consultant perform an elevation study.
Gulf Engineers and Consultants was contracted to perform the study and the results were released in September.
Moak said the results were staggering: all the homes in the 40-mile Beaver Bayou area were either removed from a flood plain designation or elevations were reduced significantly.
The Beaver Bayou area in the study includes Pinewood Acres, parts of Sherrington Place, parts of Crystal Place, parts of Rambling Oaks, Jackson Place, Jackson Park, parts of Devall Road, Amber Lakes, the eastern part of Bridlewood, Biltmore, Northwoods, Cedar Mill Run and other areas along the portion of Beaver Bayou mainly north of Greenwell Springs Road.
Moak said the study looked at what would happen to the area if the Amite River or Beaver Bayou overflowed.
Barnett said she lives in one of the highest parts of Central and has never flooded or had high standing water even though her home was included by FEMA in a flood plain.
“The numbers from FEMA just seemed arbitrary and that gave us an erroneous designation,” Barnett said.
When FEMA officials spoke with Central officials at the end of 2012 about the flood maps, Moak said, they said they were happy the city was conducting the study to obtain new information.
“FEMA told us they rely on areas getting updated information and usually use those numbers in putting together flood plain maps,” Moak said.
Moak said the city should find out by mid-2014 if FEMA will accept the new data for flood plain map use.
Barnett said although she doesn’t have flood insurance, the outcome of the FEMA decision can affect her family.
If Barnett and her family ever want to sell their home, the outdated data in the existing FEMA flood plain maps could force a potential buyer to purchase flood insurance at very high rates, which could make a sale impossible.
“Residential growth could halt, commercial growth could halt and that would have a drastic effect on Central’s economy,” Barnett said.
Residents in the Beaver Bayou area are not the only ones who may benefit from new flood plain data.
Moak said the City Council will seek a preliminary feasibility study on conducting a new elevation flood plain study for the entire city.