Incorporated areas eye flood rules, too

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Village officials will not look on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recent decision to take the county off probation as a sign that regulations will become lax.

Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Village officials will not look on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s recent decision to take the county off probation as a sign that regulations will become lax.

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Local mayors know that what happened to unincorporated Lawrence County two years ago, could easily happen to them, said Jim Buchanan, Proctorville mayor.

With the small amount of agencies willing to insure homes built in a floodplain, Lawrence County residents need to keep FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program on their good side.

If a federally-insured area goes on probation, the residents pay an additional $50 for their premium. If that federally insured area is kicked out of the program, the area’s residents might not be able to find another agency willing to offer flood insurance – a family could lose their home and have no way to regain it, said Richard Roths, NFIP specialist for FEMA Region 5.

"That’s why leadership in a community is so important," Roths said. "When the leaders don’t uphold the ordinances, they should be in fear of going on probation. Those with flood insurance pay $50 more for their premium, and an area can be suspended from the program. When that happens, people in the community cannot get flood insurance.

"FEMA has been down in the area an awful lot to know that you have flooding. It would be very unfortunate for people not to be able to get flood insurance."

Eight separate entities in Lawrence County are responsible for upholding their local FEMA ordinances, Roths said. They are the Village of Athalia, the Village of Chesapeake, the Village of Coal Grove, the Village of Hanging Rock, the City of Ironton, the Village of Proctorville and the Village of South Point.

None of these entities, except Lawrence County, has ever been on probation, not even Proctorville, which in the flood of 1997 was an island in the middle of the encroaching Ohio River, Buchanan said.

"We’ve never been on probation," Buchanan said. "We’re always trying to take care of the problems FEMA says we have. We’re trying to make amends for things done bad in the past. As long as we continue, I don’t think we’ll be put on probation."

Proctorville has not had a perfect record, however, Buchanan added.

"When FEMA came into existence, most places, the regulations weren’t enforced," he said. "When the flood came in 1997, it caught up with most of us. When the regulations first passed in the late ’80s, the village didn’t comply as well as they could. But after the flood hit us in 1997, they came in and hit us with everything they could."

Proctorville has a long way to go before they will be 100 percent compliant with FEMA regulations, Buchanan said.

"They gave us about 13 places they wanted us to get into compliance in January 1998," he said. "We’ve probably complied with about 80 percent of that. We have a few things to get taken care of, but it may take some litigation."

FEMA officials are willing to work with the local governments, though, Roths said. They allow the communities to show they can make progress before issuing probationary statuses.

"There are nearly 800 communities in the State of Ohio that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program," he said. "If we visit those communities, if there are problems, we try to resolve those problems. If there are additional problems, if the community doesn’t provide the data we are requesting from their files or not enforcing their ordinances, the first warning is probation."

The only area in Lawrence County to be on probation was taken off effective Oct. 3, because of the commitment shown by the area’s leaders, Roths said.

"We are very pleased with the leadership in unincorporated Lawrence County," he said. "The county has new leadership who said we are committed to making sure we uphold our ordinances and we will start upholding these ordinances. We look at the good face – is the community really trying, and we found that Lawrence County was, and we hope they will continue."