Designation of the "Floodway" in the new insurance rate cards of the Ascension Parish raising concerns and complaints

GONZALES – Several residents and businessmen of Ascension are questioning about a new restriction that should be introduced with imminent amendments to the federal flood insurance rate cards for the southern part of the parish.

Known as the "diversion channel", the new designation, widely used in other areas but new to Ascension, will generally apply to lands located near the waterways of the region with new maps and maps. should significantly limit the ability of landowners to build on their land. .

Residents, at least one with his lawyer, spoke Thursday a consultant engineer of the parish on how the flood lanes were determined, what data were used and if implementation could be delayed for calls, then others filed complaints about lack of notice of changes and costs. to make calls.

Public concern about FEMA's rate card changes, which are also expected to lower insurance rates for more than 1,200 homeowners in the Southern Ascension, but place another 340 owners in more expensive and higher risk categories, came to explain the changes taking effect on May 15.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is making changes after a parish-funded study has analyzed flood risks in Sorrento and areas south of Gonzales in the Boyle Bayou, Bayou Conway and Watersheds. of the Panama Canal.

Charles Deville, director of operations at Chem Spray South, told parish officials that new maps were allowing him to return from Gonzales to the new floodway and that 27 acres of undeveloped land had also been purchased by his company. 2014 for an expansion project.

He claimed that the property of the company, located near Boyle Bayou, had not been flooded since at least 1971, but the new designation will require it to prove to FEMA that any new construction or addition would not will not raise water levels of other watershed properties. .

"I mean, if we have had no impact during all times, all hurricanes, Katrina, 2016, why do we have the responsibility to do it?" asked Deville, whose company of 15 employees with a payroll of half a million dollars is a subcontractor of parish government.

Parish officials did not find an answer to this question, although Melissa Kennedy, HNTB's consulting engineer who led the mapping effort, said earlier that residents can look for what is "no-rise certification"FEMA to build in the diversion channel.

According to FEMA, the owners wishing to obtain this certification must provide their own analysis, accompanied by "technical data and signed by an authorized engineer", to show that their construction project in the floodway will not raise the heights of 39 water upstream during a flood of 100 years.

Unlike flood plains, which cover large tracts of land, the Floodway is the main channel of a waterway and its adjacent lands affected by the flow of the waterway during a flood of 100 years.

A 100-year flood, despite its name, is not limited to a flood every 100 years, it is a flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in a given year. This is the landmark of the National Flood Insurance Program around which risk and insurance requirements are set.

Several residents of the Hodgeson Road area, south of Gonzales, complained about the designation of diversion channels on their properties in the Bayou Conway area. They claimed that they had not been flooded and exceeded the peak of a 100-year flood.

Some, like 38-year-old Dru Ingram, who introduced himself with two of his young daughters, asked questions about the floodway call.

But he later stated during an interview that he and his wife were living in a caravan house and were planning to build a new house on their acreage. He said that he was devastated to learn that he might not be able to carry out these projects.

Others have objected to the speed with which the changes are coming and have only recently received the parish's notice by mail.

Missy Jackson, 53, jumped on this point after Kennedy declared that HNTB had been working with the parish for "many, many months" on card changes.

"And how long have you all given us to make the model to prove to you … inaccurate?" Jackson asked.

"Not long ago," a man jumped in.

"Five minutes," Jackson joined. "And that's not something we do regularly and … we'll have to pay everything ourselves?"

Parish Councilor Bill Dawson, who advocated flood map analysis as a means to reduce insurance rates and represented the affected area, told the group that parish officials were unprepared for questions about the floodway and had promised another meeting in about a week.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.