Our View: High cost of coastal life

Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet likened the potential outcome to the Acadian Expulsion.

Based on information we’ve gathered and been presented with, implementation of the Biggert-Waters Act truly would facilitate a mass exodus from the region, by many who have known no other place on Earth, neither as a resident nor a tourist.

As a community, we would be wise to come to grips with that possibility now and into the future.

Congress revamped the regulations and FEMA the flood maps in attempt to accurately reflect flood risk. Considering taxpayers are subsidizing flood insurance, plus paying billions each year in disaster recovery, this is an understandable mission. If your home continually floods, you should bear the insurance premiums without government assistance, or you should find a new place to live.

But, according to coastal leaders, Biggert-Waters would result in astronomical premium hikes on properties that have never flooded. We still await FEMA maps in Terrebonne and Lafourche, but based on our neighbors’ maps, good news is unexpected.

Erosion already has begun emptying homes in the southernmost reaches of Terrebonne Parish; this law, if fears are accurate, would deliver the death knell to coastal Louisiana.

Resolve shown by the region in the face of hurricanes and the largest manmade disaster in the nation’s history, the economic momentum gained and sustained during a national recession, would be for naught.

Party lines don’t matter right now in coastal Louisiana. The congressional delegation sidled beside Sen. Mary Landrieu’s Water Resources Development Act amendment that would prevent rate increases until an affordability study is conducted. After studies have delayed Terrebonne from receiving federal-level protection through Morganza, granting this amendment is the least federal legislators can do for Louisiana. Yet, Pennsylvania Sen. Patrick Toomey, a Republican, singlehandedly blocked it from receiving a vote.

With congressmen from New Jersey and New York also requesting amendments, the bill’s alleged overreach has a better chance of being truncated. Although local officials have not lessened their assault on the bill, they do seem more optimistic that Congress and FEMA will make some concessions, such as factoring in all flood-protection systems, even those that do not meet stringent 100-year standards.

“We feel comfortable, but at the same time we’re not at the end of the line yet,” Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph said. “We feel there’s still a lot of work to do.”

In general, scrutiny of law’s impacts are a harrowing reminder that all is not well in the Tri-parish area. Land continues to subside at alarming rates, and the time to get serious about marsh restoration and sustainment passed long ago.

But an intense pressure remains to make well-founded decisions pertaining to restoration and protection. Even if the latest hurdles are cleared, the clock will continue to tick. We must remain smart, resourceful and cognizant of ongoing erosion and how we can stymie its evolution. A money shortage will persist, so we cannot squander what little we have on failed efforts.

If we don’t protect ourselves, we will, as a community, be forced to pack our bags and plant our roots elsewhere.