Hannibal's perfect floodplain management earns city award and lower flood insurance rates.

When people drive through Hannibal's flood zones they likely pay little attention unless the river is up. When state and federal inspectors look at those areas and how they're managed, they see something worthy of recognition, which explains why recently a State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) representative was in town to present the city a Community Rating System Award (CRS).

In presenting the citation to Building Inspector Joey Burnham, SEMA's Karen McHugh pointed out that Hannibal had earned the award with a perfect score.

“It (100 percent score) was something the SEMA representative has never seen before,” said City Manager Jeff LaGarce. “This is a very prestigious award. Very few measure up to earning it.”

“We really take care of our floodplain and do more than is required for it,” said Burnham.

LaGarce is quick to note that Burnham's efforts are what earned the city the recognition.

“Joey did a great job in the CRS program and he richly deserves this award. We’re very proud of him,” said the city manager.

“We don't have to be in this (CRS) program,” said Burnham. “It would be less work for me if we weren't, but it's nice to be able to contribute to the community in that way and get us into that. I don't mind a little bit more work if it benefits Hannibal.”


Financial benefits


With the CRS citation comes some monetary benefits.

“If we didn't manage the floodplains we would have very, very high (flood) insurance,” said Burnham. “Being in the program as a Class 9, which is what we are, means everyone who pays flood insurance gets a 5 percent discount.”

The perfect score was awarded following a thorough inspection of 19 activities in four categories – public information, mapping and regulations, flood damage reduction, and warning and response.

“We had no violations and all the paperwork was in perfect order,” said Burnham. “Our floodplain is being maintained in perfect condition.”

Hannibal is one of only six Missouri communities that participates in the CRS, which is a nationwide program sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“While it's very difficult to earn this award, it's equally difficult to get involved in the CRS program in the first place,” said LaGarce. “The award was presented to Joey specifically for his work, but the award itself recognizes the city’s overall leadership effort to legislate and regulate proper floodplain management.”

According to Burnham, who has been a certified floodplain manager since 2005, Hannibal opted to join the voluntary program in 2011.


Time invested


“It took me a couple of years to get all the paperwork together and do all the research I needed to do to get all our floodplain mapped out correctly, and to just get everything in order. Any violations I found I took care of,” he said.

There was a time when numerous homes and businesses filled Hannibal's 100- and 500-year floodplains. Thanks to flood buyout programs the number of privately-held structures susceptible to river flooding has dropped dramatically.

“The last time I checked we had just three repetitive-loss properties left. That's awesome,” said Burnham. “If we get another buyout we could be out of it completely.”

While new construction in Hannibal's floodplain is not prohibited, it is costly and time consuming.

“Flood damage reduction comes from making sure everybody builds to the proper height. Luckily we haven't had anybody build in the floodplain lately. That's a really good thing,” said Burnham. “If you've got property in the floodplain it needs to stay a green space, but if you build in the floodplain, even though we get a 5 percent discount now, flood insurance is really high.

“If you actually build (in the floodplain) you'll put a lot of extra time and money in to be able to do it because it requires so much more paperwork and permits.”


Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com