Venetian Isles residents mobilize against flood insurance rates

Homeowners in Venetian Isles are bracing for huge increases in flood insurance rates, and they want Congress to do something about them.

Those rates have jumped because of new flood maps and the end of subsidies in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Many residents built their homes near the water, for the fishing and the beauty. "There's nothing like living on the water," said Venetian Isles resident Gene Giroir.

But now that the federal government is ending subsidies for flood insurance, they are now realizing their insurance costs are about to go seven to 10 times higher than their current rates

"I can see some people foreclosing," said Venetian Isles' Cheryl Kelly.

The rate increases have come about since passage of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which did away with federal subsidies for the NFIP.

Cheryl Kelly's annual flood insurance costs could eventually increase $10,000, in part because she's outside new levee protection for Orleans Parish and the base flood elevation has gone up four feet.

"I'm upset with our Congressional people because they are not coming to the persons who are most affected by this," said Kelly.

Most residents we spoke with don't know yet how their rates will be affected.

Tommy McMahon with Eustis Insurance said the issue was "below the radar for six months before anyone knew what was going on."

"I'm going to notify everyone in this neighborhood what's happening, and we're going to start asking difficult questions," said Kelly.

While some fight, others plan.  The Giroir family says, if insurance prices go as high as many think they will, they'll just go without.  "Oh yes, my house is paid for.  If it gets too high I would self-insure, cancel my property insurance and self-insure," said Gene Giroir.

He says he will put aside the money he would pay for premiums and use it for repairs after storms.

Kelly said, "It's very dangerous, especially if you don't have coverage.  They think FEMA, but you might not get the money you think you're going to get."

One thing is certain -- Hurricane Isaac showed that Venetian Isles may be more vulnerable than ever, now that it's outside the flood wall,

Cheryl Kelly says other areas outside new flood protection, could feel the brunt of higher flood insurance costs.  She vows to press on with her fight in order to save her lifelong home and others like it.

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act passed last year with little fanfare, after it was rolled into the Restore Act. Some believe it will actually lower flood insurance costs for residents inside of new flood protection barriers.

It depends on flood elevations set out in a series of new maps, available for viewing online. There's also a series of FEMA presentations on new flood elevations beginning in Orleans Parish on March 18.  That schedule is also available on our site,

Senator Mary Landrieu fought against the new flood insurance provisions, but she felt forced to vote for it, along with the rest of the legislative delegation.

Senator Landrieu's office tells Fox 8, she will continue to look for ways to ease the flood insurance burden on ratepayers.