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Horry County officials to appeal FEMA flood zone maps

William Johnson pulls up to his home in a boat on Riverfront Road in the Bucksville community after a flood last fall along the Waccamaw River.
William Johnson pulls up to his home in a boat on Riverfront Road in the Bucksville community after a flood last fall along the Waccamaw River. jlee@thesunnews.com

Horry County officials are planning to appeal FEMA’s proposed flood insurance rate maps that declare the community of Bucksport, Socastee areas and numerous other neighborhoods along the Intracoastal Waterway as flood zones.

Horry County Stormwater Manager Tom Garigen says the federal agency wants to raise the flood elevation level from six feet to as high as 13 feet in locations that have never flooded.

“Historically, we’ve never seen any flooding of the nature they’re talking about in Bucksport, even though there were huge storm events in this basin in 1928 and 1945,” Garigen told the Infrastructure and Regulation Committee of the Horry County Council on Tuesday.

“Something is not correlating,” Garigen said.

County Councilman Cam Crawford asked whether staffers had sought help through federal representatives in Congress, U.S. Rep. Tom Rice as well as U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott.

Crawford was assured that Rice’s office has been assisting them, but Garigen said the county needs to hire a consultant to help craft an appeal. The county filed a request this week for an extension in the appeals process.

The problem with appealing and disputing maps … they spent 10 years to do the study then give you 90 days to prove them wrong.

Tom Garigen, stormwater manager, Horry County

Hundreds of Horry County residents turned out for two public hearings held by FEMA in March to review the proposed maps that will determine what properties should be covered by flood insurance.

“The problem with appealing and disputing maps … they spent 10 years to do the study then give you 90 days to prove them wrong,” Garigen said.

“The system, frankly, is rigged against the community,” Garigen said. “It’s been a very frustrating process.”

Steve Gosnell, assistant county administrator, said that six feet is the highest flood elevation level experienced in Horry County, including Hurricane Floyd in 1999 and last year’s historic flooding.

FEMA’s assertion that flooding in those areas will defy history with an additional seven feet of water in future floods does not appear to be a logical conclusion, officials said.

“We’re having a difficult time, from a common sense standpoint, of seeing that happen,” Gosnell said. “But, we need to have scientific results to be able to argue that.”

Once an appeal is filed, a decision from FEMA is not expected until June 2017 as to which properties will be included.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson

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