West Bank residents raise concerns about flood elevations - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

West Bank residents raise concerns about flood elevations

Harvey, La. -

Dozens of Jefferson Parish residents on the West Bank turned out to learn more about changes in flood maps, and how they might affect their insurance rates. For many, the news wasn't good, but they're hoping an appeal will change things.

They huddled in small groups, trying to understand the complexities of flood zones and the impact on their homes. The Hurtins of Lafitte just learned that they need to lift their house four feet to comply with FEMA's proposed base flood elevations.

Dozens of residents went one on one with counselors from LSU's Ag Center or parish officials to learn more.

"We're in the comment appeal period, and we wanted to inform the public about whether it would be a positive change or a negative change," said Michelle Gonzales with Jefferson Parish Flood Plain Management.

The new maps have been changed for the first time since 1995, and are still preliminary. But many say their rates have already gone up, including Gretna resident John Kirksey who said, his flood insurance went up from $400 to $1,600.

While residents outside flood protection knew they would be impacted, those in the shadow of West Jefferson Hospital were surprised to learn their flood zones had been downgraded, too -in spite of the fact that their neighborhoods haven't flooded in 50 years.

"Something's wrong," said Vic Richard of Marrero. "This area was zoned X, now it's AE."

While most residents will see improvements or little change, 5,000 parish residents will see their zone change to red, meaning they are in a special flood hazard area, in spite of massive upgrades in flood protection.

"We are submitting all the comments and then we will submit a parishwide appeal that will look at the areas in red that have had a negative impact," said Gonzales.

While many say they will wait for the parish to file its appeal, others outside new flood protection resign themselves to raising their living areas. Tough and expensive decisions could save money and lives, down the road, even though the flood maps aren't expected to be made final until early next year.

Jefferson Parish residents will have a chance to go one on one with counselors, until 8 p.m. Tuesday, at the West Bank Regional Library.  Another open house is set for Wednesday at West Jefferson Hospital's Fonseca Auditorium from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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