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All damaged residences and/or business structures located in the city’s Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA or hazardous flood plains) must be inspected according to FEMA guidelines to determine the extent of flood or other damage before the owners can begin repairs or rebuilding efforts, regardless if the resident or business owner has flood insurance or intends to seek flood damage assistance of any kind. This determination must also be reached for homes and business structures not in the hazardous floodplain whose owners have previously filed flood damage claims with the National Flood Insurance Program. The inspections must follow FEMA and NFIP guidelines to determine if the structures received “Substantial Damage,” which FEMA defines as:
Substantial Damage (SD) means damage of any origin sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before-damaged condition would equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred. Work on structures that are determined to be substantially damaged is considered to be substantial improvement, regardless of the actual repair work performed or planned.
Substantial Improvement (SI) means any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the “start of construction” of the damaged repair. This term includes structures that have incurred “substantial damage” regardless of the actual repair work performed or planned.
A “substantial damage” determination requires that the damaged structure be repaired in such a way that it completely conforms to the city’s Flood Ordinance and FEMA regulations for construction in an SFHA, otherwise known as a hazardous floodplain. This means that if the structure was built before FEMA included the area in an SFHA and is not elevated according to current requirements, the repairs or reconstruction must meet all current elevation and structural regulations or it cannot be repaired or reconstructed for any reason.
If residents or business owners perform repairs with or without Port Arthur building permits before city or FEMA officials have made the substantial damage determination, those unauthorized repairs or reconstruction must be undone if the construction does not provide for the structure to meet all current city and FEMA regulations for construction in an SFHA.
Because of these city and federal laws and regulations, the city urges residents and business owners to obtain the substantial damage determination before making any repairs to structures located in a FEMA-defined Special Flood Hazard Area or hazardous flood zone. If structure owners are not sure if their property lies in an SFHA, they can call Paul Brown CFM, the city’s floodplain administrator and Certified Floodplain Manager, at (409) 983-8139 or Pamela Langford CFM at (409) 983-8135. Property owners can also go online to https://msc.fema.gov/portal
Once the FEMA site is reached, enter the address, city, state and zip code, and the property owner can view the floodplain information, copy it and/or print out a map of the searched address.