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Houses take on water off Walker South Road in the Walker area during severe flooding in Livingston Parish on Sunday August 14, 2016.

More than 16,000 Livingston Parish homeowners will see their flood insurance rates go up this year because the parish wasn't able to provide federal authorities with adequate information on permits issued for construction in flood zones, a parish planning official said Tuesday.

The inability to provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the documentation led to a reduction in the parish's Community Rating System score, which impacts the rates residents in unincorporated parts of the parish pay for flood insurance, said Livingston Parish Permitting Director DeeDee Delatte. 

CRS is a program run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that encourages communities to adopt better floodplain management practices by offering discounts on flood insurance.

Livingston Parish previously had a score of 9, and it dropped to 10 — the lowest possible score — after the recent issue on permitting, according to an April 1 letter from FEMA addressed to Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks.

The result is that the parish has been rescinded from the program and homeowners will no longer receive the 5 percent discount they had been receiving. The discount saved Livingston Parish residents nearly $300,000 per year on their flood insurance policies,  according to a 2016 report from the Center for Planning Excellence

The discount will disappear effective May 1. 

The letter says Livingston Parish did not meet a CRS participation requirement of having 90 percent of the community's elevation certificates correct.

Delatte, the parish permitting director, said FEMA wanted copies of every permit and accompanying elevation certificate issued in flood zones for five years prior to 2017, when the re-certification process occurred.

She said her office wasn't able to fulfill the request, due to an outdated permitting system that could not query flood zone-only permits. Elevation certificates were kept separately in three-ring binders, she said.

"In 2017, we were so shorthanded. And, I'm not making excuses — this is definitely something we did not want to happen that happened — but we were so busy and our office was just full-force with everything from the (August 2016) flood," Delatte said. 

The additional request for documentation was not related to the August 2016 flood, which affected thousands of people in Livingston Parish, she said. 

The parish plans to reapply for the discount in 2020 when it becomes eligible again, Delatte said. A new permitting system that was recently installed should make it possible to pull the reports FEMA requires to reclaim the score of nine, she said. 

And with a changes coming from the Livingston Parish Council to improve floodplain management, the parish could become eligible for higher discounts.

"They are taking a more proactive approach with a little bit more stringent rules on development and containing water," Delatte said. "I feel that we will be able to possibly work into being better than a nine."

The change in the parish's rating is not expected to affect the flood insurance rates of residents living inside the city limits of Denham Springs and Walker. Those cities participate separately in CRS and each have a rating of eight, which results in a ten percent insurance discount. 

The village of French Settlement also participates in the program and will be affected by the parish's rating drop, because the parish handles its permitting, said Mayor Toni Guitrau.

Residents of the other municipalities in the parish will not receive discounts, but it is unclear whether they received them prior to this. 

Communities participate in CRS by doing things that reduce flood risk for their residents.

They earn points through public outreach around flood risk, increasing building standards, promoting green space and other initiatives.

Communities can earn discounts of up to 45 percent discounts on flood insurance for their residents if they have a high number of points. 


Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.