St. Charles Parish prepares to fight flood maps

Hahnville, La. - Kimberly Mongrue grew up in Bayou Gauche and built her own home here more than a decade ago.

The area has never flooded and Mongrue pays about $360 a year for protection.

She says that bill will skyrocket once FEMA raises the baseline flood elevation level to six feet.

"One foot below is going to be $5,000 and every foot after that is going to be a penalty," says Mongrue. "There are people here in Bayou Gauche that were quoted between $15,000 and $20,000 a year for flood insurance."

FEMA presented its flood maps to St. Charles Parish at two recent town hall meetings.

St. Charles President V.J. St. Pierre says they'll have a devastating effect on the parish.

He's seeing it already.

"One of the ladies on the council sells insurance and just last week alone, she was getting ready to sell policies for new houses. three houses, they all canceled because of everything that's going on with these flood insurance maps," he says. "So it's going to have an effect on the banking industry, on the real estate industry, personal properties, people just can't afford it."

The parish is mobilizing for a fight against FEMA.

The council voted Monday night to bring in an expert who will study the elevation and determine the true flood risk.

St. Pierre and other parish presidents will meet with lawmakers on Capital Hill next week.

"I don't think there's a way that Washington can let this thing happen the way it's happening," says St. Pierre.

The parish is also encouraging residents to join the online petition asking to repeal the revised Biggert Waters Act.

That act calls for a 20% a year increase to flood insurance premiums and eliminates grandfathering of any existing properties.

The petition was started by a group of homeowners in Hurricane Sandy-ravaged New Jersey.

Kimberly Mongrue created a Facebook page to connect homeowners opposing the new maps.

More than 1,300 people are now a part of it.

"We want to make a big, big voice because if it's just one community that's impacted, you kind of can get overlooked," she says. "But if this is a national problem, you will have a bigger voice."