Lafitte's mayor appeals to Congress for flood insurance breaks

New flood maps could mean lower rates for thousands of West Bank residents, but others are bracing for disaster.  Those maps could also lead to dire straits for hundreds of people outside levee protection systems, and Lafitte's mayor is taking action.

The new maps are out, and Ernie Adams of Lafitte has a dilemma.

Adams remembers the day when you could build a house on the ground, but that disappeared a long time ago. He's flooded eight times.

"We're playing with fire over here, because by the end of the day none of us will be able to afford to live here," said Adams.

He already pays $4700 a year for flood insurance alone.  But thanks to the new FEMA maps and a one-foot increase in base flood elevation, that rate could go up.

Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner is appealing to Congress to "grandfather in" those who have already built up. If not, he and other worry that foreclosures will go up.

FEMA officials told insurance agents in Marrero the maps are not final. Ratepayers have a 90-day appeal period. But if communities don't ultimately adopt new maps, their residents could be forced to go without flood insurance.

FEMA representatives say the changes were approved by Congress, and only Congress can make adjustments.

Adams says new flood protection for the West Bank and in Lafitte is actually making a bad situation worse.  "Nobody wants to buy down there, it's high risk... they're going to lose one way or another," he warned.

Jefferson Parish officials say, in most cases, they've told people to build to higher elevations.  Parish flood map coordinator Paula Blackwell said, "We changed our codes because we anticipated this coming."  They also succeeded in keeping Lafitte out of a more expensive "velocity" zone.

Ernie Adams will try and raise his home to 10 feet before hurricane season, so that his flood insurance costs don't rise above their current $4700 a year.

"I'm sorry I bought back here... I wish I had gone north,"Adams said.

The rate changes aren't expected to go into effect for homeowners until next year, when the maps become final. But some commercial rates are already going up as properties go up for sale, and prospective new buyers are facing rates up to 10 times higher than the old rates.