St. Charles Herald-Guide

Rejecting flood maps in ‘08 saved parish millions, official says

By Kyle Barnett - April 19, 2013

According to parish representatives, St. Charles Parish saved residents millions in flood insurance premiums by opting out of a FEMA flood remapping offered to the parish in 2008.

That map would have only lowered flood insurance premiums for a few residents and West Bank residents would have seen an increase in flood insurance from around $400 to $1,300 and above.

Earl Matherne, St. Charles Parish’s coastal zone manager, said turning down the 2008 FEMA map was a no-brainer.

"In 2008, very few people would have benefited," he said. "That is why we rejected them in the first place. It really didn’t help either side. It was hurting both sides and there was an option. It wasn’t ‘here’s your map, adopt it.’ It was ‘do you want to adopt these?’ Oh no, we don’t want to adopt those!"

Matherne said, outside of the areas that now have levee protection and should see lower flood insurance premiums, the map proposed in 2012 is much the same as the one proposed in 2008.

"That’s why we decided to wait. We actually hoped the East Bank map would have been better than it is right now," he said. "The East Bank is not bad at all – nothing to complain about, but we had hoped for a little more. In 2008 it would have hardly helped anybody. It would have helped a handful of people, but now it does help quite a few people."

However, now that the Biggert-Waters Act passed Congress in July 2012, flood insurance rates stand to be much higher in unprotected areas under the new maps.

"It’s an unfortunate way to do a map change," Matherne said.

Matherne said he wishes that Biggert-Waters and the FEMA remapping could be dealt with individually.

"While there are issues on the map change, that’s really not what anybody is talking about. People are talking about premiums and how high they are going to go." He said. "They are separate issues, but they’ve got to be handled together."

According to Matherne, the good part about going through a remapping just after the Biggert-Waters Act was passed is that people will know what they are getting into now and the parish can fight that much harder.

He said if it were not for the remapping, parish residents would likely not know their insurance premiums face a large increase.

"Those numbers would still be coming, but we wouldn’t be talking about it. It would be flying under most of our radars," Matherne said.