GONZALES — Ascension Parish government's bill for the 2016 flood is coming in at a nearly $24.7 million, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed 30 percent of that cost so far, a new parish homeland security tally shows.
Nearly $12.8 million of the total cost represents actual cash the parish spent in the weeks and months after the August flood on debris removal and other emergency measures to save life and property.
The remainder, nearly $11.9 million, represents estimates of damage to parish roads, bridges, fire stations and other buildings, vehicles and equipment, and ball fields and other park facilities.
The parish's homeland security chief said he expects FEMA will end up reimbursing 85 percent to 92 percent of the parish's upfront costs and 60 percent to 80 percent of its damage costs.
"The issue is that we're in hurricane season and we've depleted much of the contingency fund, so we want to get this money back in the system as quickly as we can in case we have another hurricane," Rick Webre, the director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, recently told the Parish Council.
Hurricane season began June 1. According to the National Hurricane Center, the season's statistical peak is around Sept. 10.
Webre made his comments as he revealed a new tally of flood expenses and damage costs and detailed how much parish government had received in FEMA reimbursement so far. A copy of Webre's report, which was not immediately available when he spoke to the council last week, was later provided to The Advocate by the parish administration.
None of the FEMA reimbursements so far has come for damaged parish roads, bridges, buildings and other property, but FEMA has reimbursed $7.31 million of $7.9 million in upfront dollars the parish spent for various stages of debris removal.
Another $165,500 in debris removal costs for later passes in Ascension have not yet been submitted for reimbursement. Also, $4.1 million in upfront costs for emergency protective measures, known in FEMA parlance as Category B, is waiting in line at FEMA's joint field office in Baton Rouge for other layers of review.
"So it's going to be a little bit more time before we get this one back in place," Webre said. "Category B is somewhat complex, so it takes a little longer to review and get obligated."
The damage estimate for parish roads and bridges is $6.2 million. The estimate for 11 damaged parish buildings, including seven fire stations, and one trailer totals another $5.26 million.
Webre's report came about a week after other parish administration officials reported that U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told Parish President Kenny Matassa the parish was receiving $5.9 million in FEMA reimbursement for debris removal. Parish officials at the time suggested the amount would not be the only reimbursement for debris but didn't have further details.
What Webre and a FEMA spokesman have since said is that the $5.9 million figure did not account for the other $1.4 million the parish had already received for debris removal in smaller amounts. Members of Congress are only informed about FEMA reimbursements worth more than $1 million.
Kurt Pickering, a FEMA spokesman, said Monday the agency informs members of Congress about bigger reimbursement amounts before they are publicized, so members can notify others if they wish.
As of Friday, FEMA had reimbursed $403 million in recovery costs to the state, local governments and some nonprofits for the August flood, the agency said in a news release.