Emotional pleas for flood protection at J.P. Council - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Emotional pleas for flood protection at J.P. Council

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Crowds spilled out of the Jefferson Parish Council Chambers on Wednesday. Crowds spilled out of the Jefferson Parish Council Chambers on Wednesday.

Elmwood, La. — There were lots of teary-eyed residents and emotional pleas during Wednesday's Jefferson Parish Council meeting.

People from Crown Point, Lafitte, Barataria and Grand Isle say they are tired of their homes flooding, and Wednesday they demanded help to elevate them.

"I have rebuilt my business four times... I don't know if I have the energy, the blood, sweat, or tears to do it again," businesswoman Katie Arias told the council.

"I have a house on Jean Lafitte Boulevard that has been flooded four or five times," said Roland Couevas.

They showed up at the meeting to back a resolution that would ensure that FEMA Hazard Mitigation Program funds for Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Isaac are dedicated to raising homes in low-lying areas sitting outside the hurricane protection levee system. Officials said the money for Gustav and Ike is $15.5 million; funds for Isaac are yet to be determined.

"So today I'm not asking you, I'm begging you because… these people are going to lose their house," said Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner.

"I'm asking you to go ahead and support us.  This is our last straw... hurricane season is right there, June the first," said Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle.

"Not only dedicate the money, but expedite the process of elevating these homes," said Parish President John Young to applause.

"You guys are the speed bump, it's on your back, I get that," said Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng.

Some on the council who represent east bank communities said homes inside the levee system are not totally in the clear.

"Maybe the numbers are 99 percent in your area and one percent within [the levee system] and I just want to know that they have funds, [and] that they're not always forever taken out of getting their homes elevated," Lee-Sheng said.

"If the concern is whether or not your constituents, of course, which I represent as well, have the ability to get funds in the future.  The amendment is just to specify what pots of funding are involved in this resolution," said Council Chair Chris Roberts.

For people living outside the hurricane protection system, new FEMA flood maps are also a huge concern. In Lafitte, the base flood elevation rises a foot to eight feet above sea level, and people who have not built that high could see their flood insurance rates skyrocket.

"People can be paying up to $16,000 for flood insurance.  I mean, this is insane," said resident Michael Brown.

Parish leaders said they are lobbying Congress to restore the "grandfather" provision for flood elevations -- "To make sure that some common sense is put into these provisions," said Young.

And in the end the council approved the resolution which drew a packed audience.

"It's just enough, enough heartache, enough pain, enough suffering," said Kerner.

FEMA maintains that the flood maps are not final and communities still have time to appeal. But if communities do not ultimately approve new flood maps, their residents could be forced to go without national flood insurance.

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