New flood height advisories released by Federal Emergency Management Agency -- if adopted by St. Charles Parish -- will drastically affect the building of new homes in certain areas on the west bank. Most areas in the lower portion of St. Charles Parish will no longer be inside Zone-X.
Houses inside Zone-X are not required to purchase flood insurance, which is considered outside the 100-year flood plain.
"The new flood advisories don't affect anyone who has a permit," said Coastal Zone Management Administrator Earl Matherne for St. Charles Parish, as homes under construction or older homes will not have to be raised..
New development areas along the Mississippi River, such as 2,000 proposed homes in Ashton Plantation are unaffected, but new structures in Bayou Gauche, Paradis and Des Allemands will now be classified as Zone A-5. New homes in these areas will have to be built at least 5 feet above sea level.
State Representative for the National Home Builders Association Randy Noel said that increase in elevation will equal a substantial rise in the price in homes, foreseeing a 26 percent increase to the bottom line.
Senior Engineer Paul Hogan for RJM Enterprises a developer in Paradis said, "I don't think the change to A-5 is warranted."
Since Bayou Gauche has most of the new development in the lower portion of the parish, it stands to be affected the greatest.
The raising of homes can cause a host of problems, particularly drainage on to the lots of older, lower homes.
The new flood elevations are still only an advisory from the federal government, but FEMA officials intimated to Matherne that Louisiana Recovery Authority would probably force St. Charles Parish to adopt the measures.
Only the parish can implement the measures, but the LRA could force St. Charles Parish to adopt them by withholding grant money for flood protection. If the rule changes follow this route, it troubles Matherne because the parish would unable to appeal to the new advisories.
Lower St. Charles Parish could potentially regain its status as Zone-X. "If we could certify a levee to protect at the 5 foot elevation, then everything inside of it should be Zone-X," said Matherne, but added that it was only a hypothetical situation.
As for when the parish might see the guidelines, Matherne said he was unsure as to when this could go into effect.
"I just want to know why FEMA wants to do this," said Hogan, "and whatever the reason we need to address it."
FEMA and LRA were unavailable for comment.