The solution to your flood plain problem!!
I write this today to provide a written answer to the problems that people on Jackson Lake have encountered with F.E.M.A and their new update to the flood plain. For the life of me, I do not know why it has taken me this long to put something in print. I can only guess that I must have enjoyed talking to people on the phone because I have personally disposed of over 100 cases that people have had when they were told they needed flood insurance by their mortgage company.
Here is some of the background of what I know: Please understand that I am not an expert in this issue. All of the information that I disseminate here is what I have learned in my investigation. It is the responsibility of each person to verify this information to be correct. I assume no liability for the information here and instruct you to use it at your own risk. In no way am I suggesting that you not purchase flood insurance if you live on a body of water. Mother Nature could at any time decide to flood the whole State of Georgia.
I began working on this as a Butts County Commissioner. I observed that FEMA was updating the flood maps in our area and as a Commissioner representing Butts County on Jackson Lake it was very important to me that I knew what was going on with this. I immediately began receiving reports that the flood plain level FEMA was using was not right and needed to be investigated. I made contact with EPA in Atlanta to get some background information on the flood plain process for my own knowledge.
I was told that FEMA and EPA had hearings in Butts County ( before I became a Commissioner) to announce and field questions on the flood plain from county residents. After a series of meetings, that approximately three citizens showed up to, the case was considered approved by FEMA.
One of the first actions I had to take as a Commissioner was to vote to approve the new flood map. This was done and ratified by the Board of Commissioners. I say this bit of information for the pundits that have said we should have never approved the map in the first place. We had no choice but to approve the maps, if we had not then residents around the lake would have had no ability to purchase Federal flood insurance at all. Butts County also could have risked not being available for Federal money had this not been approved. It was my position that we approve the map and fight it later if we believe it to be flawed.
Newton County approved their flood map the year before us with Jasper County following the year after us.
FEMA set the new flood elevation for Jackson Lake at 539.6 feet above sea level with the map revision but in speaking with local surveyors I began to believe that this number was far from accurate. We needed to perform a flood study of the lake ourselves by an Engineer to have a valid case to argue with FEMA on their numbers. Through research I found the best deal on a flood study through a company out of Marietta. The fee for the study was $2,500.00. I went on a hunt to find private dollars to pay for the study and was turned down by three entities with vested interest on the lake due to them not wanting to be involved. Not to be flustered by this, I believed that it was important enough to our residents to spend public money to pay for this study. I contacted the other two counties on the lake but was met with lukewarm response and ” We will get back to you” replies. This was not good enough. I went to my Board members with the issue and they believed it important enough to fund the study with Butts County funds.
Approximately one month later we received the report by the Engineer that found the Base Flood Elevation or BFE to be 534.75 feet confirming our thoughts that FEMA was wrong. We are in possession of that report and have had numerous residents in all three Counties removed from the flood plain with the information from the Engineer.
Below I will spell out the process to remove yourself from the flood plain when contacted by your mortgage company and told you must purchase flood insurance. This process has helped numerous people to date on the lake, I only know of three people that were not removed from the flood plain after this process was completed.
1. When contacted by your mortgage company you will be told that you are in a flood plain and have 45 days to get the flood insurance or they will purchase it for you at your expense. Understand that they have the ability to do this, but must refund all the money to you if you are found not to be in the flood plain. They do not have the ability to prorate part of the premium to you. This process could take over the 45 days and you may be charged by them.
2. You must contact a surveyor and have an elevation survey done of your residence. The cost ranges between $250.00 to $500.00 depending on the surveyor you use. This survey measures the height of your foundation as it relates to sea level. Notice I said foundation, it is not the floor height of your bottom floor of your house but the foundation. The thought is that if a flood comes your foundation will be damaged before your bottom floor. The surveyor will provide you a copy of the survey and information on how to send it in to FEMA to be removed from the flood plain.
3. On the form completed by the surveyor there is one field that decides your fate. It is the block marked LAG or lowest adjacent grade. If that number is above or greater than 539.6 then you should send the form on to FEMA and you should be removed from the flood plain immediately.
4. If the LAG number is between 534.75 and 539.6 don’t worry, all you have to do is send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward you a copy of the report that we received and that supporting document along with the elevation survey should remove you from the flood plain.
5. If your LAG is below 534.75 then you are officially in the flood plain and if there is a mortgage on your house the mortgage company can require you to purchase flood insurance to protect their investment.
These are the five steps to remove yourself from the requirement to purchase flood insurance. I know they sound confusing but as always I am available to answer any questions at 678-758-5631
From the time you send off the paperwork to FEMA the response time has generally been two to three weeks to receive the Letter of Map Amendment or LOMA back from them. I am sorry that the public must spend any of their hard earned money during this depression on doing surveys to get out of the flood plain. Please understand that it is an issue with the Federal Government and not your County Government. Myself and the entire Butts County Board of Commissioners are committed to helping you through this confusing process.