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Fate of Flood Mapping Lies With State Budget-Makers

Posted June 12, 2007

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— As the state House and Senate try to come up with a compromise on the state budget, one staffing cut could save the state about $800,000 over two years — but some officials say it could jeopardize a $122 million program and affect how North Carolinians prepare for hurricanes.

Hurricane Floyd changed the way Carolina prepares for big storms. The state's floodplain mapping program was born after Floyd, updating information on what areas are flood prone and determining who is at risk for that next big storm and who should get flood insurance.

A budget cut, however, could halve the 20-person team in two years.

“We're concerned that the maps will not be maintained, that flood hazard awareness will go down, and by doing that people won't buy the appropriate insurance that they need,” said John Dorman, chief of the Geospatial and Technology Management Section in the state Division of Emergency Management.

The agency has the money to finish mapping the entire state. The problem is maintaining and updating the data down the road.

The House is willing to fund 20 positions the first year of the next budget and 15 the next. The Senate offers 15 the first year and 10 the next.

“More is not always better. And those folks who are saying that we need to stay with 20 and 15 need to make very sure that is not a false security,” said Rep. Alice L. Bordsen, D-Alamance.

“In eastern North Carolina, we had Hurricane Floyd, and that was devastating. We had bodies floating on the water. We had people losing their homes. We had people to die from this hurricane, so we don't want another one of those to happen in North Carolina,” Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Edgecombe, said.

“The maps are on course to be finished by the summer of 2009, and we don't see that we're putting people in danger by not doing this,” Sen. John Snow, D-Cherokee, said.

The floodplain mapping program also operates a flood-warning system in parts of the state. Dorman says that also might be affected by the staff cuts.

Lawmakers are expected to settle on a new budget by the time the new fiscal year begins July 1.


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  • I say... Jun 13, 2007

    Only when spending tax dollars would someone request the same staffing levels to maintain the data once built, as it takes to go off and create it initially. The maps would need to be extremely dynamic for it to require 20 people to maintain them on an ongoing basis.

    It would be like calculating you need 50 people to capture all of the street names in use in Raleigh within a month, then claiming you needed to keep them all permanently, to capture any deletions, additions, or changes. I applaud the attempts to limit the inherent government waste.

  • Steve Crisp Jun 13, 2007

    This type of thing is exactly what our tax dollars need to be spent on, not much of the other garbage that they ram down our throats. But having said that...really, what cretin does not know that they live in a flood plain? You build a house on the banks of a river and one day you're gonna lose it. I really don't need the state to tell me that.

  • curiousgeorgia Jun 12, 2007

    It sounds pretty darn silly to cut staff for a section as important as that! With the uncontrolled development occurring all over like it is, we will have many more losses if flood plain maps are not complete and available!