FEMA has agreed to redraw flood maps in Algiers and move significant portions of that section of New Orleans out of flood-prone zones following an appeal by the city and dozens of residents.
The appeal was prompted by what the city said were errors in the maps that would have placed significant portions of Algiers Point in flood zones that require more expensive insurance.
The dispute over the maps heated up in July, when residents began preparing appeals in response to preliminary maps released by FEMA that showed their properties in Flood Zone A, which means there is a chance of flooding during a rain event that has a 1 percent chance of occurring each year. Those properties had previously been classified in Zone X, which designates properties that are not considered to be at that risk.
The city joined in the fight in August, arguing that FEMA had created flooding models for the area based on the incorrect assumption that Opelousas Avenue was a raised street that would prevent water from draining out of the area, thereby increasing the chance of flooding. Those maps also did not account for drainage improvements the city has made in the area, the city said.
Maps released Tuesday correct that issue and essentially resolve all of the city’s concerns.
Properties in Algiers Point, along the Mississippi River levee and in other areas of Algiers all have been reclassified back to Zone X.
“I think it’s great. It’s a huge improvement,” said Vlad Ghelase, who owns several properties in Algiers and organized about 80 property owners to get elevation surveys to challenge FEMA’s maps.
Ghelase said he would have to study the new maps further before determining whether other areas of Algiers that remain in flood zones are being classified properly.
A downgrade could have had a significant impact on property owners. Owners of Zone X properties pay a lower rate for flood insurance and have a cap on the amount their rate can increase. In addition, mortgage companies do not always require flood insurance on those properties, unlike in areas with higher risk.
“The resolution of these issues ensures the accuracy of the flood maps for the residents of New Orleans,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a news release announcing the success of the appeal. “We know that the maps now show the actual risk and flood insurance will be more affordable for area residents. This success would not be possible without strong partnerships with FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the congressional delegation and the local community. ”
The city estimated over the summer — before the success of the appeal — that overall, the new flood maps would move about 53 percent of the city’s residents into Zone X. About 3 percent of residents would be downgraded into Zone A.
Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.