FEMA ‘can’t see’ the Sunset levee, says build new homes 7-feet higher than old homes

It would be easier to go to the moon and bring back a moon rock than to get those levees certified, says emergency operations center director.

What do you call a levee that’s not certified? According to FEMA, it might as well be mud.No matter how big or good they look, if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers didn’t build them, they don’t count.

In FEMA’s eyes, since the Sunset Levee wasn’t overseen and certified by the Corps of Engineers, it might as well not even exist, said Tab Troxler, director of St. Charles Emergency Operations Center.

That is why FEMA is “advising” new homeowners in Sunset to build new homes 7-feet higher than older, established, homes. The “advisories” will probably be adopted in May, he said.

In an exclusive interview, Troxler told the St. Charles Herald-Guide that it would be easier to go to the moon, get a moon rock, and bring it back than to get FEMA to certify the Sunset district levee.

Yet the feds thought the levee was just fine before Katrina, according to St. Charles Parish Chief Administrative Officer Tim Vial.

“They recognized the levee back then and even showed the levee on their flood-rate maps,” said Vial. “Now they’re not recognizing the levee anymore.”

After the Sunset levee was built, FEMA labeled the district “Zone X.” With this status, homeowners didn’t even need flood insurance.

Yet, now with stricter levee regulations, “it’s just like the levee is not even there,” Troxler said.

He advised the Parish Council in a regular meeting to adopt the advisory flood elevations.

“To me it would make sense to adopt them so that homeowners don’t build now and then six months from now have their neighbors build 7-feet higher than them,” he said.

Longtime Sunset resident Juanita Guidry weighs in like this: “I think it’s a mess.”

She’s concerned that if new homes are built higher than existing homes, water will not drain properly, creating a whole new set of problems for residents.

Councilman Dickie Duhe questioned at this week’s council meeting whether or not there will be limits set on how much fill can be put on a lot.

The parish’s planning department said that regulations regarding fill have not been set in stone, but they will also consider recommending alternate building styles that would not require a lot of fill.

Councilman Derryl Walls added that this is an issue that needs to be addressed very quickly.

Troxler “is positive” FEMA will adopt the flood elevations in May: “FEMA is showing us their hand with this advisory,” said Troxler, “I’m 100 percent sure FEMA’s advisory flood elevations will be the flood elevations that come out in May.”

Another strong incentive to adopt these elevations now, said Troxler, is so that St. Charles Parish can get the Louisiana Recovery Authority funds that it has coming – an initial $3.2 million with more in the works.

“But we will get none of it if we don’t agree to the new elevation levels,” he cautioned.


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