Florence nears decision on levee

Residents could face steep increases in insurance rates if levee is not re-certified

Staff writer

Florence residents could receive unforeseen flood insurance bills in the near future if the Federal Emergency Management Agency does not re-accredit the city’s levee.

Without accreditation, insurance rates would be “significantly high,” according to county planning and zoning director Tonya Richards.

“FEMA will re-map the flood plain like the levee isn’t there,” she said. “Almost all of the city would be in the flood plain and have to pay flood insurance.”

Insurance would be required of anyone with a federally backed mortgage if the flood elevation determined by FEMA is above the top of a home’s lowest level.

Before accreditation, the city would have to hire an engineering firm to certify the levee. Hiring a firm could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It’s kind of overwhelming,” Florence city clerk Janet Robinson said.

Robinson said the city council would discuss its options July 7.

Richards said the city has an option to increase taxes to help pay for the accreditation.

The city also could pay on a long-term contract.

“I had to pay flood insurance in the past,” Florence resident Edmond Spencer said. “Most of it was nonsense because our house wouldn’t have gotten flooded.”

Spencer currently lives on the hill of W. 5th St., west of Circle Drive. He said his wife, Carolyn, witnessed the historic 1951 flood before the levee was built, and water levels did not rise too far above the bottom of the hill.

“I wouldn’t want to (pay for flood insurance), living on the hill,” Spencer said. “It’ll never get up here.”

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