FEMA loosens reins on county#039;s flood plain management

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 17, 2002

For the last eight years, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has carefully monitored flood plain management in Lawrence County.

Uncle Sam is now willing to let county officials go about their business without such strict federal supervision, and has sent a letter saying so.

Lawrence County Floodplain Manager Doug Cade said federal officials have notified him the county is not longer being monitored and will no longer need to send biannual reports on compliance activity and permits.

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The letter stated that the county

has established a &uot;strong floodplain management program&uot; and no longer requires federal scrutiny.

&uot;Usually, when we get a letter from FEMA, it concerns us,&uot; Cade said with a laugh.

The federal government was asked to investigate the county’s floodplain management program in 1993 after the US Army Corps of Engineers alerted that office with its concerns about new home development in the Proctorville area.

Although 3-5 percent of the county’s land is considered to be in the floodplain, 20 percent of the population lives in the floodplain.

Based on that investigation it was determined that some of the construction was taking place in floodplain areas without the necessary permits and without adequate thought to flood mitigation (prevention) efforts.

In 1996, FEMA placed the county on probation and ordered local officials to develop a flood plain program that enforced laws through education and through permit issuance.

Cade said permit issuance was one area where the county was seriously lacking. Although it is free, few people were bothering to get a building permit prior to 1995. A permit is required by law before construction can take place.

Through an aggressive education effort, the statistics have changed: 168 permits were issued in 2001, as compared with two in 1995.

&uot;We were able to do a good enough job of education that now, the number of cases we send to the prosecutor’s office is minimal,&uot; Cade said. &uot;We’ve tried to do our job in a nice manner and give people the information they need.&uot; Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune