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Emergency officials update Board on Eagle Lake status

Representatives from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency are expected to be in the Yazoo Backwater Area Tuesday to begin damage surveys, Warren County Emergency Management Agency director John Elfer said.

He said the mandatory evacuation of Eagle Lake approved in March by the Warren County Board of Supervisors remains in effect, adding no construction permits will be approved for the Eagle Lake area until Mississippi 465 is open from U.S 61 to Eagle Lake.

Elfer said the MEMA representatives would be performing substantial damage assessments in the area, which will help local emergency management officials determine the percentage of homes damaged by the flooding that inundated the backwater area and the Eagle Lake community for four months.

He said the assessment would also help determine which homes have substantial damage. Under the county floodplain regulations, homes in the flood area must be 18 inches above the base flood elevation, or BFE.

New construction and substantial improvement require the building be at least 18 inches above the base flood elevation. In the backwater area, the BFE is 100 feet, which means the first living floor for new construction and substantial improvement to a building must be at least 18 inches above the BFE. In the backwater area, that is 101.5 feet.

If a home is below 101.5 feet and has sustained damage totaling more than 50 percent of the home’s value, it will have to comply with the new floodplain ordinance, Elfer said. If the damage is less than 50 percent, then repairs up to 50 percent of the home’s value can be made.

“If the house was built after 1979 and has a finished enclosure below the base flood requirement, based on when it was built,” Elfer said, “That enclosure must be restored for access storage and parking only. It must be constructed of flood-proof materials and cannot have a bathroom in it.”

He said anyone with questions about the county ordinance can call county emergency management.

“We understand that these ordinances can be confusing,” he said. “That why we’re here to help. We want to prevent this from happening again.”

Elfer discussed the floodplain ordinance after he and Sheriff Martin Pace gave supervisors an update Monday on conditions at Eagle Lake.

“The status of the backwater area, Eagle Lake and Floweree Road is although the water has gone down considerably, it’s a tremendous road issue,” Elfer said. “We’ve got road damage, we’ve got debris.”

Pace said he and Elfer have been talking with Mississippi Department of Transportation Central District engineer Kevin Magee about Mississippi 465, adding MDOT officials are concerned about the section of the highway between the backwater levee and the Eagle Lake gin, which remains flooded. The water, Pace said, is preventing engineers from assessing the impact of damage in the area.

“They are not going to open that road right now,” Pace said. “We were hoping they would and they (MDOT) were hoping they would, but until it (the water) drops enough to make an appropriate assessment and fix the road, they are not going to open it.”

He said, however, that Goose Lake Road is open, and Low Bridge Road in Sharkey County is passable, reducing the travel time to Eagle Lake from Vicksburg.

Pace said sheriff’s deputies will not prevent Eagle Lake property owners or their representative from going to check on property if it is accessible, but heavy equipment or trucks should not be allowed in the area until Mississippi 465 is completely open.

“Life and safety is our paramount concern, and we’ve gone this far without getting anyone seriously injured or killed, and I hope we can complete this process without anything like that happening,” Pace said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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