STATE FARM'S HEAD ON A PLATTER
What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Land buyout plan shocks Hancock

Theresa Thomas Ray of Waveland expresses her doubts about the Army Corps of Engineers ability to protect the Mississippi Coast during a citizens meeting. "If the Army Corps does anything like what they did in New Orleans, we don't need them here," said Ray.
photo by AMANDA McCOY/SUN HERALD


Public meeting draws hundreds

By J.R. WELSH
baybureau@aol.com



More photos: Hancock County Corps meeting (Sept. 18)

BAY ST. LOUIS -- Hancock County was still reeling Tuesday from revelations that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to buy hundreds of acres from private owners to wipe clean flood-prone land in Bay St. Louis.

The plan is part of the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program, which has been in the working stages for months but only became common knowledge this week. The issue boiled over Monday at a public meeting held by the corps and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources that was attended by well over 250 people.

Citizen reaction developed immediately. One activist group, Coastal Community Watch, is soliciting questions from citizens for submission to the corps, and is asking the government to provide written answers on a Web site.

Another group created a Web site called savebaywaveland.com, and officials are working on a resolution formally opposing a mandatory buyout and asking that any properties purchased be bought under strict conditions governing future use.

A buyout would be the first step in the 30-year, Coastwide program. In Hancock County, it includes a possible levee, a 40-foot-high seawall around Old Town Bay St. Louis and flood gates at the mouth of the Bay of St. Louis. Targeted areas include Shoreline Park and much of Cedar Point in Bay St. Louis. Hollywood Casino is included.

DMR Executive Director Bill Walker spoke and moderated the meeting at Bay Middle School and caught the wrath of residents opposed to a buyout.

Suspicion were strong Tuesday that buyouts would remain voluntary. "I still believe they'll get to the point where it's going to be mandatory if they start building levees," said Hancock supervisors President Rocky Pullman.

Some also were angry because the plan has barely been publicized, although Walker said it "is a partnership that has been developed over the last two years" by his agency and the corps. Walker said meetings were publicized and held but did not elaborate.

The Sun Herald confirmed Tuesday that corps officials met with Hancock County supervisors and other officials and briefed them on the program in August. The meeting was held in executive session.

[A.M. in the Morning! Note: "Executive session" means that the public officials cannot disclose--even to their staff members--the contents of the meeting.]

Bay St. Louis City Council President Jim Thriffiley was critical, saying it was not good business. "I think any compulsive buyout is dead and over," he said.

Thriffiley said a joint resolution by the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Waveland Board of Aldermen and supervisors will oppose mandatory buyouts and request that properties purchased be bought under the Stafford Act.

That would allow the government to buy property where a home was destroyed by the hurricane, at a price based on both the current value of the land and the value of the home before the storm.

In addition, the land could never be sold by the government and would be used only for public purposes.

Monday night, residents were opposed to even a voluntary buyout. They said such a plan would weaken the community, leave some people living in isolated areas and destroy small businesses if enough homeowners sell.

Then there was the matter of governmental distrust.

"How can the people of Mississippi trust the Corps of Engineers after what they did to New Orleans?" one woman said.

Another said: "You come in here and scare people to death with a plan that's not even thought out. You're not offering these people anything but terror. We already know what terror is."

On the Web

Information on the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program can be found at:

• coastalcommunity watch.blogspot.com

• savebaywaveland.com

• mscip.usace.army.mil

• hancockchamber.org

Sun Herald original story published here on September 18, 2007.

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2 comments:

zanadoo said...

I don't understand why everyone is opposed to the buy-out. I would rather move back north of the interstate and see them build some type of levee instead of having to go through what we have in hte past few weeks. My house flooded twice becasue of the storms and I am a little aggravated that we can't even get some type of help like Louisiana is getting. So yes I would sell out so I could move and not have to worry about all my stuff getting ruined. I just got a pool installed about two months ago and it is destroyed because of the flooding and my insurance refuses to cover it even after my agent said it was covered. This is enough. I would rather know i am safe from flooding than to whine about giving up my land. You can always find something else.

Ana Maria said...

You know, Key West recently went through hell and isn't it funny how no one has ever mentioned buying out those folks? Why do you think that is? More to the point, why is that the Bush Administration targeted the hometown of Congressman Gene Taylor, the man who has single-handedly taken on Big Insurance and exposed the property insurance scam that deliberately failed to pay on the property damage that Katrina's hurricane winds caused. Rather Snake Farm, AllSnake, and the other big companies simply pretended that the flood waters that came on land some 3-4 hours AFTER the 100+ mile an hour winds had battered us some how were the cause of the damage.

Isn't it peculiar that little ol' Bay St. Louis is plucked out of the numerous towns and cities that could be in a hurricane's path, that out of any stretching from Key West, Florida, to Galveston, Texas, that it is Taylor's home town that is the target?

Do I think that the decision to float the idea of a buy out of Taylor's home town was a cynister political manuever? Yes, I most certainly do.

There hasn't been any such talk of late and that is, precisely, because the point of floating the buy out proposal was to stir the pot and have folks like you and me scrambling to figure out what the proposal would mean and determine whether we are for or against any or all of it.

The truth, though, is that the proposal was a purposeful political ploy to distract us from what so many of us have come to know in the harshest of terms.

We need ONE policy to cover both wind and water. Just think what that would have done for us here after Katrina. As you know, we can drive from Bay St. Louis across the Bay Bridge and go through Pass Christian, Long Beach, and Gulfport, to Biloxi and beyond and see miles and miles of baron land to the left of us, land that before Katrina had been filled with homes and apartments and stores. Today, three years later? Not the case.

If we all had had ONE policy for both water and wind, none of us would have had to squabble with our insurance carriers. Wouldn't have mattered whether the wind got our property or the water or both or one before the other or whathaveyou. Nope. Everyone would have all gotten checks within a very short time. Boom time, baby!

Businesses would have rebuilt quickly. Homes? Up and built. Rental? Built and rented. And not a peep from Bush's batalion of bureaucrats suggesting that the federal government ought to buy us out.

Alas, our private insurance industry bailed out of the flood policy business back in the 1960s. Homeowners and business owners cried out for help. The Federal Government heard their cry and began a subsidized flood insurance program. Here we are some 40 years later and voila! The private insurance companies are again bailing out of the wind insurance businesses . . . only they are often merely deliberately failing to pay up on wind damage caused to coastal properties while keeping our premiums.

Anyway, the point is that the buy out was a political ploy and was never intended to come to fruition. It's intent was to get some innocent and wonderful Americans like yourself interested in the idea while ticking off others of us and messing with ALL of us so that the White House could help to derail our district's plea for property insurance reform which all of us need and need now.

Believe me, the exhaustion of not only going through any of these storms is horrific. But also going through Mother Nature's storms knowing full well that we'll have to face down the farce that is Big Insurance creates an exponential emotional exhaustion on all of us living South of I-10.

Thank you for your comment Zanadoo!

- am