Army Corps wants flood maps taken off Columbia Co. website

By: Katie Beasley Email
By: Katie Beasley Email

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Nov. 14, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- It's better to be safe than to be sorry -- that's the word from Columbia County's Emergency Management.

That's why information about where you live is posted on their website, so you can prepare. But a federal agency wants that information gone.

A few months back, The Army Corps of Engineers asked Columbia County to hide emergency flood information from homeowners. It's something they're simply refusing to do.

Before now, Joe Coursey didn't realize his home was in the Savannah River Dams flood plain.

"I'm surprised to find out that I am in it," Coursey said. He's surprised, but glad he knows.

"You need to know these things because you have a family, you live here. It affects people, not just buildings," Coursey said.

Columbia County Emergency Management Director Pam Tucker says the latest maps were updated in 2005 so her team and homeowners could be ready.

When trying to update the maps this year, Tucker says The Army Corps of Engineers wanted her to conceal emergency flood information from the public.

"As EMA director, it is my responsibility to talk to people about what hazards exist, what the risks are," Tucker said. "It makes sense, it's part of emergency planning to see what is the worst case that could happen and then let those people know so they know what to do."

The latest map shows more than 7,000 people could be affected in the worst-case scenario that one of three dams on the Savannah River breaks.

With 40 percent growth countywide since the 2000 census, that number is expected to be much higher.

"None of the Corps' dams have ever failed, we don't anticipate that it's ever going to happen, but I can't sit here and go ... well, it doesn't matter. It's never going to happen. I can't do that," explained Tucker.

Tucker says The Army Corps believes the information could be used by terrorists and should remain a secret.

Coursey says he has a right to know.

"I'm kinda disappointed. I think that anybody that lives in an area like this needs to know and it should be a responsibility that The Corps takes seriously, to let people know about this," he said.

The Corps wants to add a non-disclosure clause into the use of the newest maps, but Tucker says the county will issue new maps with or without The Corps' help.

Reports list the chance of failure at "extremely remote." A concrete dam disaster is very rare in U.S. history.

Tucker says the biggest threat to our area could be an earthquake, and how the dam would react to the natural disaster.


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