Mississippi: Should Hunting and Fishing Camps Have to Elevate?~

Official rules for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) restrict the eligibility for flood insurance to buildings in states, counties, or towns that enforce building codes and flood mitigation policies prescribed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). If your town or state doesn’t enforce building codes and doesn’t have rules regulating development in the flood plain — including the elevation of structures above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) — then you can’t buy Federally backed flood insurance for a building in that jurisdiction. And there’s more — FEMA emergency loans and other flood-relief spending also may be unavailable for towns or counties who can’t qualify to participate in the NFIP.

That’s now a potential problem for the whole state of Mississippi. Why? Because, by law, the state exempts hunting and fishing camps from compliance with local building codes and zoning rules. And FEMA now says that if the state won’t require those casual structures to comply with the same elevation requirements as full-time occupied homes, the entire state may be disqualified from participating in the NFIP. The issue has been simmering for months. Back in August, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood asked Mississippi’s Congressional delegation to intercede with FEMA, asking for some wiggle room. The Mississippi Business Journal had this report (“ Hood: State risks being cut out of NFIP,” by MBJ Staff). But FEMA is unwilling to bend, according to a recent report. The Bolivar Commercial reported this month that FEMA official David Miller, the administrator of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, has officially responded in the negative (“ FEMA replies to AG’s floodplain request,” by Chance Wright). The Commercial says that in a letter to Attorney General Hood, Miller wrote, “There is a requirement that a community must adopt adequate floodplain management regulations before joining the NFIP and is a condition of eligibility that cannot be waived. If a community lacks the ability to legally enforce its floodplain management ordinance uniformly, then it is not in compliance with the NFIP.” And Miller said that if Mississippi insists on exempting hunting and fishing camps from its rules, the whole state will indeed lose its Federal insurance eligibility, along with other relief aid. Wrote Miller, “If a flood disaster occurs in a suspended community, then most types of federal disaster assistance to individuals and households for housing and personal property would not be available. So, should the state want to continue its participation in NFIP, then Section 17-2-9 of the Mississippi Code must be remedied before the end of the 2012 Mississippi State Legislative Session. Should that action not occur, Mississippi communities would be suspended from the NFIP effective on May 5, 2012.”