Flood maps another nail in coast’s coffin?

After hurricanes Katrina and Rita pummeled Louisiana’s coast, the Federal Emergency Management Agency faced its share of criticism.

First, there was the slow response time.

And later, questions arose about the agency’s readiness for another Category 4 or higher storm.

On the heels of America’s most costly natural disaster in modern times, FEMA hit back – issuing 100-plus year flood protection maps.

The heights outlined on the maps caught many in the Tri-parishes by surprise, to say the least. Areas that had escaped a flood designation for years were suddenly deemed ground zero for a watery death, according to FEMA’s renderings.

The maps have been circulating for several weeks. However, since many residents were not able to attend the public forums in which the maps were first introduced, the Tri-Parish Times, beginning in this issue, is giving locals a first-hand view of the flood-based maps. (See page 6A to view St. Mary Parish’s designations.)

Next week, we’ll take a look at Lafourche Parish and, the following week, Terrebonne.

Local lawmakers are already making the rounds in Washington, D.C., protesting the flood lines created by FEMA. As state Sen. Butch Gautreaux (D-Morgan City) warns, these maps have the potential to deliver another devastating blow to coastal Louisiana.

Our region is still struggling to right itself in the wake of the 2005 storms, not to mention the most recent hit by hurricanes Gustav and Ike. Creating additional hardships on residential and commercial development could forever stymie future growth.

Lafourche and Terrebonne officials have announced plans to join the state to protest these updated maps, arguing that the FEMA maps could raise flood insurance costs and impose stricter building standards. St. Mary Parish is likely not far behind.

Now is the time for residents to familiarize themselves with the maps and have a voice in the process. Contact your legislator and let him or her know your thoughts or concerns. With the June 1 start of another hurricane season fast approaching, this is one issue that will not be washing away.