Those in flood zone may have options

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 20, 2013

By Kimberly Hopson

HAHNVILLE – Monday’s St. Charles Parish Town Hall meeting to discuss the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s newest flood maps also presented two interesting options for residents of the parish who expect to see a sudden increase in flood insurance rates.

The first option the parish presented is that it would consider secluding areas situated behind the uncertified levees and allow time for FEMA to finish its study of the levees. This option would allow the maps to take effect in the rest of the parish while delaying them in the secluded areas. By using seclusion, 15 percent of residents would be able to avoid higher premiums, but only temporarily. As a second option, the parish council may delay the flood map entirely until further study is done. The parish council may also choose to accept the flood map as-is, an unlikely option.

Joe Suhayda, the former director of the Louisiana Water Resources Research Institute, said one of the more obvious ways to reduce flood insurance rates is to elevate the houses in question, an option that was met with shouts of anger from the audience. Suhayda went on to say that another way to lower the rates was to lower base flood elevation through an appeal process that the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers when presenting new flood maps.

The objective of the appeal process is to find issues that can be improved, thereby opening the possibility to lower the base flood elevation. Suhayda said the reason the Sunset Drainage District levee was not recognized by the agency is because because both surge water and waves are expected to top the levee. Suhayda said if the community can show that improvements have been made to levee, that there is evidence of mismapping or that waves/surge were lower than estimated, the community can ask to have the levee accredited.

“We can look in detail at how the maps were put together and see if there are any errors or deficiencies. It’s a community opportunity to identify and remap the flood zones with new information,” said Suhayda.

St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre Jr. also presented some steps that the parish is taking find a solution for the maps. St. Pierre said the parish is continuing to search for other options and had devised a plan to make a closed levee system that will extend from the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion structure to Bayou Des Allemands that will offer protection for the west bank.

“The parish in conjunction with the Lafourche Levee District is working to build a 7-foot stone barrier that will help protect residential, business and industrial properties and evacuation routes on the west bank during hurricanes. Our long-term flood protection goal is more ambitious in scope and will require direct assistance from federal government. This federal protection is what’s necessary to lower your FEMA flood insurance rates,” explained St. Pierre.

St. Pierre said the potential levee system will incorporate a flood gate and a pump station near Des Allemands and would tie into a levee system in LaFourche Parish that parallels U.S. Highway 90. Unfortunately, St. Pierre said the project is currently out of reach because of its half million dollar price tag.

St. Pierre mentioned that the parish will work to gain the assistance of the government to build the levee despite the price tag.

For more information on the issue, visit To view the flood insurance maps, visit