Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ruling Aids Rebuilding in Flood Plain

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ruling Aids Rebuilding in Flood Plain

Article excerpt

Hundreds of Missourians will be able to rebuild homes in the flood plain rather than having to move to higher ground because of a federal policy decision Thursday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a policy statement that permits Missouri officials to use the more lenient standard used by Illinois officials. It increases the number of homes that can be rebuilt in the flood plain without having to elevate them a foot above the 100-year-flood level.

Environmentalists and some government officials involved in the relief effort called the action a poor way to manage the flood plain.

"It's a terrible decision," said Roger Pryor, executive director of Coalition for the Environment. "Taxpayers are going to have to bail people out again in 15 years. It's crazy to put them back in harm's way."

But Rep. Jim Talent, R-Chesterfield, praised the move. Through a spokesman, Talent said the action would "save the homes of hundreds of St. Charles County residents. . . . This is not the time when the government should force people out of their homes."

The new FEMA policy statement permits communities to use the "replacement cost" of a structure as the measure for determining when it needs to be elevated.

Under federal rules, a structure in a city or county covered by federal flood insurance must be elevated a foot above the 100-year-flood line if it sustained damage greater than 50 percent of "market value."

Officials of FEMA in Missouri had interpreted market value as the property's pre-flood value.

Agency officials in Illinois interpreted it as "replacement cost." Replacement cost usually is greater.

As a result, Missourians felt they were being shorted on relief funds.

For example, a house with a pre-flood market value of $40,000 might cost $60,000 to replace. So, in Missouri, to get FEMA relief, that house would have had to be elevated if it had more than $20,000 damage, while the threshold in Illinois would be $30,000. …

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