With FEMA Backing at Risk, Mississippi Looks to Regulate Camps

Facing the likely loss of eligibility for federally backed flood insurance and FEMA emergency aid statewide, Mississippi legislators are moving to revise a law that exempts fishing and hunting camps from local building codes, reports the Sun Herald (" Lawmakers work to fix FEMA flood-coverage issue," by Geoff Pender). FEMA regulations only permit the agency to put its funds behind flood recovery in towns or counties where building codes and zoning address the flood risk by restricting development in the flood zone, and by requiring flood-mitigation measures such as building elevation in risky locations. By law, Mississippi has long exempted casual structures at hunting and fishing camps from building code requirements, but FEMA has advised the state that soon this policy will make the whole state ineligible for flood insurance and disaster funding. House Bill 773, passed by the state House on February 21, would remove the problematic exemption. State representative Jeffrey Guice of Ocean Springs told the Sun Herald that the issue is critical throughout the state, not just near the Gulf coast: "Only two counties in the state have not adopted the flood-plain management program," he said. "You're talking about something that could put thousands of mortgages in this state in default." And State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney told a legislative committee that without the change, wind-pool insurance rates would also rise on top of the loss of eligibility for flood insurance. "It has got to be done," Chaney said. "As of May 5, 2012, we will be decertified if we don't." Chaney said there are nearly 88,000 NFIP policies in Mississippi, insuring more than $18 billion worth of property, the Sun Herald reported.