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County may challenge federal flood plain; Hodges: 'We owe it to the residents'

By Stewart Voegtlin

stewart@jacksonprogress-argus.com

Commissioner Gator Hodges, at the Board of Commissioners regular monthly meeting held April 12, presented a preliminary plan for establishing additional flood plain delineation for Jackson Lake.

Hodges told the Board he's made this a personal mission.

"A flood plain map was established and it threw every house around Jackson Lake into a flood plain," Hodges said. "If you have a mortgage, your mortgage company is now calling saying you need to get flood insurance."

County Administrator Alan White told the Progress-Argus the federal government established a flood plain from satellite imagery.

"The lines are not done with GPS and therefore are not exact," White said.

Hodges said he established contact with a reputable engineer -- Joan Woodward -- who said the county could get the lake's flood plain number dropped. According to Hodges, the number was generated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and has forced some who live on the lake to purchase flood insurance. Hodges said he thought once the number was dropped, those people would be exempt from purchasing insurance.

Hodges said Woodward quoted him a fee of $2,500.

White said if the flood plain delineation was done with GPS it could make a significant difference.

"[The federal delineation] could be six to eight feet off," White said.

Hodges asked the Board to sanction him, and allow him to speak on behalf of the county.

"I intend to speak with Georgia Power, and I'm going to ask them to pay for this," Hodges said. "If it doesn't work, I'm going to the Newton and Jasper county commissioners and ask them to split the cost. If that doesn't work, then we owe it to the residents to spend the money ourselves. I'm asking the Board to sanction me to speak to Georgia Power."

Vice Chairman Roger McDaniel, who is a Georgia Power employee, recused himself from the discussion as soon as his employer was mentioned.

Board Chairman Mitch McEwen asked if this was something county staff could handle.

"What happens when we pay her the $2,500--what sort of guarantee will we have [FEMA] will go here her findings?" McEwen asked.

Hodges said he didn't know if it was possible to have a guarantee.

White said while it's not possible to have a guarantee, the report could be accepted after federal review.

"We haven't discussed this yet, but if it's possible to help some people out and have a positive effect on their insurance situation, that's a good thing," White said.