RALEIGH, N.C. -- The state of North Carolina and the Federal Emergency Management Agency yesterday announced a long-term strategy to help North Carolinians move out of the way of future floods - a voluntary buyout program of flood-damaged North Carolina properties.
"We want to help North Carolinians rebuild. And we want to help them rebuild out of harm's way - out of the floodplain," John Copenhaver, regional director for FEMA's Region IV office in Atlanta, said at a Wednesday morning press briefing from the FEMA/North Carolina disaster field office in Raleigh.
The goal of the process, said North Carolina Mitigation Director Gavin Smith, is to help many more North Carolinians avoid the kind of devastation that Hurricane Floyd dealt to so much of the state.
"If there's any silver lining in this tragedy, it is that we can rebuild in a stronger and safer way," Smith said.
Smith and Copenhaver stressed that the program would be voluntary - the program would buy only the properties of people wanting to sell those properties. They also said the buyout program would focus first on the most flood-prone areas, and the most damaged properties in North Carolina.
"For some communities, the process will move relatively quickly," Copenhaver said. "For others, it will not be so fast. But we will move the process as quickly as we possibly can. And it will be fair."
Smith said the process already has started in many areas. State and FEMA officials have met with officials from 15 communities that sustained substantial flood damage, and two buyout projects - in Kinston and Goldsboro - already have been approved. Officials expect to meet with at least 60 more communities in the next two weeks.
FEMA's Copenhaver said the buyout program in North Carolina is going to be "larger in scope and faster than anything we have ever done before."
State and federal officials stressed that applications for buyouts will be made by local communities - not by individual property owners. They urged any interested property owners to contact their city or county planning department, local emergency manager or local floodplain administrator.
People whose properties are approved as part of buyout packages will be offered the fair market, pre-flood values of their properties, Smith said. A licensed appraiser will determine that value, officials said.
John Copenhaver's comments regarding the buyout program at Wednesday morning's press briefing:
"Two years ago, under the leadership of Director James Lee Witt, the Federal Emergency Management Agency launched Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities.
Today, FEMA and the State of North Carolina are launching an initiative that will help make the flood-ravaged communities of North Carolina disaster resistant communities.
To help people avoid the devastating effects of a flood disaster like Hurricane Floyd, FEMA and the State of North Carolina are initiating a buyout program that is unlike anything we have done before.
FEMA has done buyouts before. But this buyout is designed to be faster and larger in scope than any others. We want to help North Carolinians rebuild - We want to help them rebuild out of harms way, out of the floodplain.
The process has already begun. FEMA/State teams already have met with officials of 15 severely damaged communities to help them develop buyout applications. And we expect to meet with at least 60 more communities in the next two weeks.
Two Hurricane Floyd buyout projects have already been approved - in Kinston and in Goldsboro.
I want to be very clear about something. This is not a competition. It is not first come, first served. The focus is on reducing risk. The focus is on getting people out of the way of floods ... and the priority is the most severely impacted structures - no matter where they are - n...