Parish talks flood mitigation strategies

Published 5:34 am Saturday, June 18, 2022

By Emily Burleigh

The National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System was the first topic of discussion during this week’s “Let’s Talk Drainage” webinar series hosted by the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.

The webinar focused on the drainage programs that will aid Calcasieu Parish with watershed management and floodplain protection.

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“This is a voluntary incentive program that recognizes and encourages communities to go above and beyond the requirements of the NFIP,” Jeanne Arceneaux Hornsby, director of engineering for C.H. Fenstermaker and Associates, said. “This is a neat program because it is something that rewards communities that take things up to the next level.”

Hornsby said the ultimate goals of the CRS program are to reduce and avoid flood damage to insurable property, strengthen and support the insurance aspects of the NFIP, and to foster comprehensive floodplain management.

Credits for the CRS program are only accumulated if community efforts exceed the minimum floodplain requirements of the NFIP.

“Many of the communities that we talk to think this program is out of reach and requires a significant investment of resources,” said Jack Young, Halff Associates program manager. “However, what they don’t realize is that many times the activities that they are already performing as part of this floodplain management program qualify for credit under the CRS program.”

There are four main categories of action that collectively contain hundreds of creditable actions. These are public outreach; mapping and regulation; flood damage reduction activities; and warning and response.

The top points of the program are awarded to activities that encourage the preservation of open space, implementation of higher standards, acquisitions and relocations, and flood protection.

“The CRS program is unique in that investment by the community has a direct financial impact on its residents,” Young said.

Calcasieu Parish is a Class 8 participant in the CRS program, resulting in a premium reduction of 10 percent. Lake Charles is a Class 9, resulting in a 5 percent reduction. This puts both Calcasieu Parish and Lake Charles below the average rating, Class 7.

Young said the program will become more important as homeowners begin to feel the impact of the changes to insurance that come with Risk Rating 2.0.

“This is a new way of calculating what flood insurance premiums are for homeowners,” Hornsby said. “It’s considered a fairer way of looking at flood risk across the United States.”

The new program fully rolled out in April 2022. Across Louisiana, 80 percent with flood insurance will see an increase in their flood insurance.

With Risk Rating 2.0, the rating variables are a home’s distance to large bodies of water, river class, flood type, ground elevation, first flood height, and construction and foundation types.

Another program presented during the webinar was the Local Buyout Program.

“A buyout program is where we purchase flood-prone properties, which gives property owners the opportunity to move away from flood hazard areas,” Jennifer Cobian, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury grant director, said. “Buyouts are a last resort option. A buyout might be necessary because the drainage improvement project will likely not reduce flood risk for a property.”

The entire buyout process can take up to three years. “That’s even if we can get that property on a grant application,” she said. “We currently have 200 properties waiting to be placed on a grant application.”

Cobain said that four main benefits can be generated through local buyout programs —reduction in current and future flood risk, the opportunity for lower flood insurance premiums, open space and permeable land, and the conversion of land for community use.

Fifty buyout projects have been completed with FEMA grants.

There are two remaining sessions planned — 9:30-11 a.m. Aug. 3 and 9:30-11 a.m. Sept. 7.