The Oct. 3 news story on the floods in Princeville, N.C., emphasized the human dimension of the destruction as well as the town's history as the oldest incorporated by freed slaves.

But the article didn't mention that Princeville has been inundated more than a half-dozen times in the past 100 years, leaving the impression that the emphasis after floods should be on rebuilding at that location.

What the floods should teach us is not to rebuild in extremely flood-prone areas or in wetlands or converted wetlands. When James Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director, and Carol Browner, Environmental Protection Agency administrator, flew over the region recently, Mr. Witt said, "For every dollar we've invested in relocation, we've saved $2." Ms. Browner said, "We should stay out of flood plains."

In the interest of not repeating mistakes, North Carolina environmental organizations have developed principles for disaster relief, which were sent to the state's congressional delegation, to Gov. Jim Hunt and to state legislative leaders. These principles include using public funds to relocate homes and businesses away from flood-prone areas. Instead of rebuilding homes in high-risk areas, public funds should be used to acquire areas unsuitable for development.



The writer is program director for environment at the Moriah Fund, a family foundation that promotes biodiversity conservation.