In 2005, the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina devastated southeast Louisiana, yet, by a narrow distance, largely spared the West Bank from widespread flooding.
As a result of Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers was tasked, by Congress, to build a levee system to protect our region from 100-year storm events.
In 2014, for the first time in history, the West Bank was protected by a 100-year certified levee system. The gift that cost 4.2 billion federal tax dollars has been delivered.
The West Bank has been told, in 2012, of a second massive gift that is tied to the first gift.
This second gift is the FEMA-published flood rate maps that now recognize, for the first time in history, the 100-year level of protection enjoyed by the West Bank. These maps are set to become the effective maps for setting flood insurance rates once accepted by the community.
The Jefferson Parish office of Flood Plain Management has stated that the West Bank of Jefferson Parish has within its levee system, more than 36,000 homes and structures that will be benefited by the new maps: 22,000 properties will be moved from the A zone to the X zone, and another 15,000 properties will have their base flood elevation (BFE) lowered. About 1,200 will see no change in either their flood zone or BFE, and, unfortunately, there are almost 5,000 properties that will see no benefit from the new maps.
The total of more than 36,000 homes and structures will see reductions in flood insurance premiums paid. The savings to these individual property owners will be substantial and will be enjoyed annually, as long as our levees remain certified.
The positive benefit to 36,000 far outweighs the regrettable lack of benefit to 5,000. The ratio of good to bad is almost 7.5 to 1.
In my ongoing career as a homebuilder, I have built many homes in the neighborhoods of Terrytown, Jefferson Place, Belle Meade, Spanish Oaks, Baywood, Stonebridge, Saulet, St. Mary, Ridgecrest, Whispering Oaks, Park Place, Lake Timberlane Estates, Oak Forest, Audubon Oaks, Acadiana and Acadian Villas. I know the West Bank and its flood regulations well.
We must pay to maintain our levees. We should not pretend that there might be some third gift. There has been no one who has identified any other method of paying for levee maintenance. Our individual homeowner’s savings in annual flood premiums will be more than our cost of the maintenance, and if we ignore the maintenance, we risk losing our certification.
Bruce W. Layburn