FEMA won’t release formula insurance specialists used for quotes at open house

Although reports of an impending rise in flood insurance rates for over half the parish have been bandied about ever since FEMA came to town on April 1, the exact formula used to find out insurance rates has yet to be released.

Earl Matherne, St. Charles Parish’s coastal zone manager, said the rates FEMA provided to those at the initial open house, which were sometimes over $20,000, may have been excessive.

“I hesitate to quote the rates because FEMA is saying the numbers given at the open house were really punitive rates for people who thumbed their nose at the permitting process and wound up building below requirements. They said those were punishment rates,” he said.

Jacqueline Chandler, a FEMA public affairs specialist, said FEMA was unwilling to release the formula insurance specialists at that meeting used to provide quotes to parish residents.

“I don’t have it and I’m not going to release it to the media,” Chandler said.

Matherne said he also requested the numbers from FEMA, but was rebuffed.

“We’ve asked specifically for plus to minus eight in one foot increments. Let’s not talk in riddles anymore because I need it. People are asking me that specific question so we’ve asked,” he said. “Their answer was that they don’t have the chart out yet. So we asked through congressional and their answer was ‘we don’t have the chart out yet,’ so we are going to accept that as the answer.”

For now his office can only go by literature previously released by FEMA.

“We would love to see the numbers, we would love to share the numbers. We found lots of rating charts online, but if you read them they are written strangely,” he said. “It’s written like on or after this date do not use this. What do you use it for then? It’s a little confusing.”

Matherne has isolated a few numbers provided by FEMA for those who are at certain elevations.

As it stands now, insurance on a home one foot under base flood elevation (BFE) at $200,000 for the home and $80,000 for its contents would cost $5,042 annually.

A homeowner at four feet below BFE would be insured on a $250,000 home without contents at $9,500 annually.

Matherne said going by those rates he has used an average per foot rate that he said is not far off from what FEMA quoted to residents at the meeting.

Whether those rates stay the same or change once FEMA releases another set of rates in June is uncertain.

“We’re hopeful that they’ll be considerably lower than how Bayou Gauche, Paradis and Des Allemands fits in the charts now because I’m sure you have heard some of the numbers,” he said. “They are wild.”

Due to FEMA not recognizing the Sunset Drainage District levee for the first time, many people living in the Bayou Gauche, Paradis and Des Allemands built their homes lower than required in other parts of the parish. Now that the area’s levee is no longer recognized, those structures appear to be in the most trouble when it comes to higher insurance premiums.

Despite some homes being closer to 10 feet below BFE, Matherne said even for those who are one foot below BFE flood insurance would be quite burden.

“A lot of folks are saying even at the one foot below level, even at the $5,042 rate, is unacceptable – it’s not something they can live with,” he said.


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