Parish moves to appeal flood maps: PPG wants FEMA to take Parish Coastal Restoration Plan into accountApr 15th, 2013 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: news
The council and administration made the first formal step last week to appeal FEMA’s 2012 flood insurance rate maps (FIRMs) that if implemented, would shoot base flood elevations South of Belle Chasse and on the Eastbank of Plaquemines up to as high as 21 feet.
The ordinance passed unanimously, and authorizes Parish President Billy Nungesser
to negotiate and execute agreements in conjunction with an appeal of the FIRMs. It also brings on Dr. Joseph Suhayda, Director of the Louisiana Water Resources Research Institute, as a consultant. Suhayda has 30 years experience in coastal engineering, and has conducted evaluations of the hydrologic impacts of several restoration projects in Louisiana using computer modeling.
District 4 Councilman Stuart Guey was on the council in the 1990s when he and his fellow councilmembers filed an appeal based on several levee and coastal project for which they had plans and money allocated. The appeal was granted. But sometime over the last 20 years, FEMA stopped considering unfinished projects.
“From what FEMA told me, until a project is completed and certified it will not be considered in determining Base Flood Elevation,” said Guey. “In the 90’s they considered these things [uncompleted projects], but somewhere along the line the
rules got changed.”
Guey says that he has a strong interest in finding out when, where and why this policy
change occurred, and since Dr. Suhayda was heavily involved in the process during
this time period, he hopes he will be able to shed some light on the subject.
Councilchair Byron Marinovich and President Nungesser both said that the appeal
is leaning on the fact that the parish invested millions into coastal restoration and
levee projects, that were not taken into consideration when this mapping was done.
Last year, the council approved a $65 million bond to fund the three-phase Plaquemines
Parish Coastal Restoration Plan that includes building berms and barrier islands, as well as island and ridge restoration. Nungesser explained that he is working with the Corps of Engineers and is close to getting Phase 1 Corps certified. Once in place, the berms will work with existing levees to lower storm surge 5 to 8-feet in several locations around the parish.
Phase 2 of the parish’s Coastal Plan includes barrier island and ridge restoration that will start once phase 1 is complete. Those projects are projected to lower storm surge another 5 to 7-feet. Phase 3 is the building up of the outer barrier islands, which is projected to lower storm surge by 5 to 8-feet when completed.
“Added up, those projects would give Plaquemines Parish the protection it needs
and deserves,” said Nungesser.
In another separate but related piece of legislation, the council unanimously approved
an ordinance that allows the Parish President to continue implementation of the Coastal Plan to perform permitting, surveying, geotechnical and engineering activities for four reaches of ridge and marsh creation: Reach A (Port Sulphur to Empire), Reach B-1 (Empire to Ft. Jackson), Reach C (Phoenix to Bohemia), and Reach 1 (Braithwaite to White Ditch).
The ordinance also allows them to investigate the feasibility of 35/65 cost sharing
agreement with the Corps of Engineers for dredge material. If finalized, the Corps
would cover 65 percent of dredging costs and supply the parish with the material, and the parish would pick up the other 35 percent of the tab.
“It’s a no brainer,” said Marinovich. “And a win-win for the parish and the Corps– they can help us by giving us some dredge material and we can start working on some of the these restoration projects.”