01/14/14 — Easing of restrictions on FEMA-purchased land sought

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Easing of restrictions on FEMA-purchased land sought

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 14, 2014 1:46 PM

Easing restrictions on the use of land purchased through the Federal Emergency Management Agency would help Wayne County in its efforts to extend Interstate 795 across the Neuse River and on to Interstate 40, state Board of Transportation member Gus Tulloss says.

Tulloss, whose area includes Wayne County, said he supports efforts by Wayne County commissioners to ask Congress to ease those restrictions.

"The letter from commissioners to try to get some of these FEMA regulations eased, I think, it would be great of they would do that," Tulloss said. "You mentioned getting 795 across the (Neuse) river, it would certainly give us more options to look at, and potentially we would have less impact on business and commercial and residential, if we had options to look at.

"I think it would be very positive, and I thank them for taking the initiative to write that letter."

The FEMA restrictions surfaced last week during commissioners' discussion of federal legislative goals being sought by the North Carolina Association of Counties. The goals will be sent on to the National Association of Counties.

No route has been selected for extending I-795, but a study is under way looking at completing the conversion of U.S. 117 to I-795 from Goldsboro to I-40.

The FEMA rules apparently prevent the construction of new roads and highways over FEMA-funded property owned by counties, Commissioner Joe Daughtery said.

"One of the issues here locally affecting us, but also across the nation, are the restrictions on the use of FEMA land," he said. "I am proposing a resolution to modify those restrictions on FEMA land and suggest we submit that to our association and that they pass it along regarding federal legislative issues.

"The issue here is land owned by counties, municipalities and states purchased with FEMA funds as the result of flooding restricts the location of roads and highways. The proposed policy is that NACo urges Congress to modify restriction on property owned by counties, municipalities and states which prevent the construction or reconstruction of certain roads and highways over such land."

Many counties that have low lands and flood-prone lands were able to purchase those lands with FEMA funding following certain floods and hurricanes, he said.

The counties worked to have all structures removed from those properties to protect their citizens from flooding and to protect emergency workers from having to rescue people trapped by flooding, Daughtery said.

It also removed impediments to the natural flow of water, he said.

However, some rules are so restrictive that they cause long delays in securing FEMA approval to repair existing structures such as bridges when abutting land was purchased for the relocation of bridges or roads and highways, he said.

"New roadways are essential for the economic development of counties and NACo urges Congress to immediately remove such restrictions," Daughtery said in his resolution. "The impact of removing the restrictions would enhance economic development of counties that own FEMA property or in which FEMA property is located."

Daughtery's resolution was unanimously approved.

Other suggested federal legislative goals adopted were:

* Ensuring that budget reforms and sequestration do not result in unfunded mandates to counties

* Protecting Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and social services block grants

* Supporting remote (Internet) sales tax collection

* Maintaining funding for education and workforce development

* Protecting counties during implementation of the Affordable Care Act

* Supporting efforts to maintain funding for beach renourishment

* Supporting Senate Bill 743-Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013