(Orange, Texas)

Our Community

August 14, 2013

FEMA: Levee a violation

ORANGE — With over 4,000 National Flood Program Insurance policies in Orange County, a levee located northeast of the intersection of the Neches River and Interstate 10 in Orange County is raising more concerns for the county than preventing rising waters.

The court requests FEMA come before the court and tell the court if the levee would lead to a violation affecting the residents of the county and eligibility of participating in the National Flood Plan Program.

FEMA said it is a violation and the fill needs to be removed.

The unpermitted fill, if left, could affect flood insurance, disaster assistance and FA/FHA mortgages according to Sr. National Hazards Specialist FEMA Region VI Flood and Mitigation & Insurance Jack Graham, CFM.

Graham said FEMA would work with the county to help bring the county into compliance.

“We were made aware of this particular situation,” Graham said. “The fill material being used is not permitted.”

Graham said the fill was concrete, rebar, highway construction material, asphalt, and timber.

“We are obligated to monitor to see the fill removed,” Graham said.

Sonny Stevenson, of Parkwood Land Company, was issued a Stop Work order in 2010 for fill in a floodway without a permit.

In the effort to start working on the levee again, Stevenson seeked legal council and requested the court to establish an appeals board to inform the community of the procedures to appeal a decision earlier this year.

Stevenson also requested to be exempt from the requirement of a “No-rise certificate” to continue work on his property. A request that was denied by the commissioners in July 2010.

Without the certificate, Stevenson is legally prevented from filling in the property where it would have an adverse affect on the water level of the levee.

FEMA requires that an engineering analysis must be conducted before a permit can be issued. The No-rise Certification must be supported by technical data and signed by a registered professional engineer.

During a previous meeting, Charles Kibler, Jr., attorney for Stevenson, asked for clarification on the levee, built in 1890.

Letters from the Army Corps of Engineers, dated Aug. 2010, reads ‘As of April 26, 2007, the Nationwide Permit 3 Verification no longer required you to receive an individual Section 401 Water Quality Certification and Coastal Zone Management Act consistency determination from TCEQ because these activities authorized by Nationwide Permit 3 were determined to be consistent with the aforementioned regulations.’

Assistant County Attorney Douglas E. Manning said that grandfathering the levee allows the levee to remain but the work on the structure in 2013 is subject to current regulations.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux asked FEMA what would happen if the county grandfathered the levee.

“The county would be under violation” Graham said. “The levee today, is not the levee there earlier.”


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