The Orange County Commissioners’ Court held off hiring a new county engineer at their meeting Monday afternoon.

County engineer Les Anderson died last week and the court was to begin a search to fill the vacancy. County Judge Carl Thibodeaux, however, opted to delay the action for one week so further research could be completed.

Mike James of the Road & Bridge Department, meanwhile, was named as temporary county road administrator in the absence of a road engineer. Commissioners also approved adding $5 an hour to James’ current salary during this period.

Vidor resident David Duncan went before the court regarding a flood damage prevention order for his residence at 830 Ashford St.

Duncan said he was planning to build a shed in his backyard. His permit, however, was revoked and he discovered his property is located in the Caney Creek floodway. 
Additionally, 16 houses and the water treatment plant are in the floodway.
Duncan added he can’t renew his flood insurance because he’s situated in a floodway. His lien holder also requires he have flood insurance.

“I don’t know where to go,” he said.

Thibodeaux replied if flood insurance is refused for Duncan, FEMA will have to do it for the entire street.

County attorney Douglas Manning said no-rise certification was required for the neighborhood as early as 1987. The neighborhood was platted in 1990 and none of the other homes there obtained a no-rise certification or a flood permit afterward.

FEMA’s website defines no-rise certification for floodways as: Any project in a floodway must be reviewed to determine if the project will increase flood heights. An engineering analysis must be conducted before a permit can be issued. The community’s permit file must have a record of the results of this analysis, which can be in the form of a No-rise Certification. This No-rise Certification must be supported by technical data and signed by a registered professional engineer. The supporting technical data should be based on the standard step-backwater computer model used to develop the 100-year floodway shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or Flood Boundary and Floodway Map (FBFM).

Manning explained according to FEMA plats, no-rise structures can be built in a floodway without the certification. He added the certifications weren’t strictly enforced by the agency until Hurricane Ike.

“They (FEMA) still have to enforce no-rise certificates. It’s difficult to obtain the permits because property owners can’t create any rise,” Manning said.

Manning continued, saying the county passed the no-rise certification because they had to, but they need to clarify their understanding with FEMA.

Likewise, all 16 owners need to sign a Letter of Map Revision.

A Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) is FEMA’s modification to an effective Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), or Flood Boundary and Floodway Map (FBFM), or both. LOMRs are generally based on the implementation of physical measures that affect the hydrologic or hydraulic characteristics of a flooding source and thus result in the modification of the existing regulatory floodway, the effective Base Flood Elevations (BFEs), or the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). The LOMR officially revises the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or Flood Boundary and Floodway Map (FBFM), and sometimes the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) report, and when appropriate, includes a description of the modifications. The LOMR is generally accompanied by an annotated copy of the affected portions of the FIRM, FBFM, or FIS report.

Duncan said in recent years much dirt has been pour in the neighborhood, raising the elevation an additional four to five feet in height.

Jeff Kelley, emergency management coordinator, advised the court FEMA has conducted buy-outs such as on Ashford Street across the nation.

Thibodeaux concluded the discussion by saying Orange County and FEMA will conduct a public hearing at 2 p.m. on Thursday in the commissioners’ courtroom to discuss matters.
FEMA will also produce a new map of the area and Thibodeaux said they can work on this issue at a future workshop.