Biloxi storm plan among first in nation to get FEMA approval

Biloxi’s plan to reduce damage from floods and other disasters is one of only 10 in the country to receive approval from the federal government, meaning the city should receive favorable attention when applying for $150 million in matching federal grants for projects designed to lessen recurring damage from storms and flooding.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency notified Mayor A.J. Holloway this week that Biloxi’s plan, which was developed to meet new FEMA guidelines, also is the first in the state to be approved and will serve as a model for other communities.

Additionally, property owners in Biloxi will be eligible for an additional five percent reduction in flood-insurance rates beginning Oct. 1 because of the city’s ongoing efforts to improve drainage and educate residents about steps they can take to reduce storm-related property damage.

To see the city’s online Storm and Flood Info Center, click here.

“We are very proud of this,” said Robert K. Boteler, director of the Mitigation Bureau at MEMA. “Y’all are one of the first communities in the nation to have an approved hazard mitigation plan, and you are one of the fastest growing communities in the state. This goes hand in hand with what you’re doing in Biloxi to truly make yourself a sustainable community.”

Biloxi has spent tens of millions of dollars in the past decade to improve drainage citywide. That work, along with community outreach programs, had previously earned Biloxians a 10 percent reduction in flood insurance rates.

Communities must have a FEMA-approved hazard mitigation plan in place by Nov. 1, 2004, but an approved plan will influence FEMA grants this year. Said Boteler: “Those who can say they have an approved plan this year will receive more points in the rating system.”

Mayor Holloway was also pleased with the announcement: “It says something about the job we are doing that MEMA chose us to serve as a model, but the important thing is what this means for the citizens of Biloxi. Having this plan in place early on means that we’ll be among the first approved communities to apply for a share of $150 million that FEMA plans to make available for things like buying out flood-prone homes, replacing wooden piers with concrete piers, and making major drainage improvements.”

A few years ago, Biloxi used mitigation funds to install riprap at Bayview Avenue near Forest Avenue, where past storms had eroded the roadside. The city is currently awaiting FEMA funding for a home-buyout program.

The FEMA announcement was also timely news for MEMA, which will be in Biloxi in May 2004 to host the National Association of State Flood Plain Managers – a group of 900 representing communities from across the country and as many as 20 foreign countries.

“This approval was a big thing,” Boteler said, “because in our literature we were able to say that we’ll be having this convention in one of the first 10 communities in the country to have an approved mitigation plan. We’ve found Biloxi to be a pleasure to work with.”