As a result of the looming changes in flood insurance policies scheduled to take place across the Gulf Coast over the next few years, residents of Lafourche Parish have used social media and public events to band together and raise awareness about the potential dangers these new policies hold for all homeowners living in so-called “high risk” areas. The Louisiana congressional delegation has approved these reforms in the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, which basically proposes that all federally-funded flood insurance premiums will now be determined by the level of flood risk involved in each area, particularly affecting residents of Terrebonne, Lafourche and St. Charles Parishes, some of whom have already received preliminary quotes on new flood insurance premiums in excess of $25,000 a year. The main problem and the cause of most outrage with these new reforms is the fact that many of the locally instituted and parish-funded flood protection projects now in place are not being recognized on the federal level, simply because there was no federal money involved in making them, and so residents are not being given a fair and accurate account of their true level of flood risk in the eyes of FEMA, who are charged with creating the new flood zone maps.
The controversy has carried over into Facebook and other social media as more and more pages and groups are being formed by local officials and residents seeking to raise awareness and to warn others about the impending changes. Most of these groups have a somewhat disorienting mixture of links to relevant, news coverage and impassioned, angry rants from various homeowners. Lafourche residents have used these social media resources to organize a rally in conjunction with other activities going on across south Louisiana and in the northeast as well, where residents there are still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy and are now very much concerned with the same threat of higher flood premiums. The rally in Lafourche Parish is scheduled for 11 am on September 28th at the Central Market, 4484 LA-1 in Mathews, LA. The rally is not a protest, but simply a means of getting concerned citizens together and informing others about the coming changes. The overall opinion from this group is that the 2012 Act has enforced an unfair policy with incomplete and inaccurate data, and if more residents are empowered and inspired to educate themselves on the issue and to get involved, it becomes much more likely that congress might reconsider and revise these changes before it’s too late.
The rally will coincide with another in St. Charles Parish at the Westbank Bridge Park on LA 18 off of I- 310 in Luling, during the parish’s Alligator Festival, which runs through September 28-29th. There will be a booth providing information about the reforms and important contact information for residents who seek to stop them before they start. The rally follows a town meeting held by FEMA earlier in the spring, at which residents were able to get quotes on what their flood insurance premiums would be after the changes take effect. At the meeting, the premium for a one-story home in Bayou Gauche with no prior flood history at all went from $365 to over $16,000 a year!
The rally will also take place on the same day as multiple rallies across New York and New Jersey concerning the same issues in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but as of yet there is no news of any planned rallies in Terrebonne Parish, even though the Parish President and many other Terrebonne officials have made repeated statements and attempts to gain national attention about these reforms and the potential injustice of enforcing consequences resulting from incomplete data upon the residents of affected areas. Stay informed and stay tuned for more as the story unfolds.