FEMA asks for new flood elevations

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 7, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has proposed an advisory to increase the base flood elevation of homes in St. John and St. Charles Parish at least one-foot higher than the current elevation requirements, to minimize flood impacts of the future.

After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, FEMA has completed an early evaluation of 100-year flood Stillwater Elevations (SWEL), which calculate storm data from the past 35-years, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The results of the analysis advocate that the SWEL for both parishes are adequate along Lake Pontchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico, but due to land subsidence and the loss of the coastal wetlands over the past 10 to 20 years, higher storm surges and waves can flow further inland than before, according to FEMA.

Because of these possible circumstances, FEMA has advised that each parish increased the BFE at least one-foot on all new buildings, however; the decision is solely upon the parish council members to approve the increase.

&#8220We have always advised our residents to go above the required elevations, if they can afford it,” said Earl Matherne, St. Charles Parish flood plain and coastal zone manager. &#8220We are going to have our engineers have input on this, and we have to look at FEMA’s numbers before any decisions are made. Who knows we may increase it to two-feet, instead of one.”

Matherne said the decision whether to increase the BFE by one-foot will be voted on

by the St. Charles Parish Council either the first or second meeting in January.

St. John Parish Chief Administrative Officer Natalie Robottom said the parish is still unsure whether or not they will enforce the increase or not.

&#8220We have not had a chance to really look at all the paperwork,” she said. &#8220As soon as Adrienne (Labat, planning and zoning director) has a chance to go through all the paperwork from the meeting, and we have a chance to look at, we will come to a decision.”

According to FEMA, the increase will provide extra flood protection to homes and business structures, reduce flooding, and may result in lower flood insurance premiums.