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Story Archives: Police Jury seeking clarification on levee certification
|Police Jury seeking clarification on levee certification|
The Concordia Parish Police Jury plans to meet with federal and state officials next month for clarification on its responsibility involving the accreditation of levees that protect the parish.
Jurors learned from its flood plain manager Monday night that levees have not been certified and accredited as required by federal law. Without accreditation, individuals and businesses with mortgages living within certain zones in the parish would at some point have to purchase flood insurance unless the issue is resolved.
Flood Plain Manager Larry Walters said the Jury could be required to hire an engineering firm to provide the federal documentation necessary for accreditation.
But Fifth District Levee Board President Reynold Minsky said Tuesday he does not believe the Police Jury "has any responsibility in that. We'll get it done."
The Fifth District Levee Board oversees and maintains levee protection for East Carroll, Madison, Tensas and Concordia parishes.
"Accreditation and certification are not the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers," said Kavanaugh Breazeale of the Vicksburg District Public Affairs and Communications Office. "We send a levee evaluation report to FEMA and they use their own calculations to determine certification."
However, Breazeale said the Corps "is working diligently with the Fifth District Levee Board to find solutions to these issues that are causing the non-accreditation."
The new stringent requirements concerning levee accreditation arose following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when the levees in New Orleans failed.
Jury President Melvin Ferrington said a meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 27. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Fifth District Levee Board are being invited, he said.
Walters told jurors during their regular meeting Monday night that levees protecting the parish didn't get accredited by FEMA last year. He said new floodplain maps will reflect that.
Walters quoted a letter from FEMA indicating that without accreditation, homes or businesses located within the historic reach of a 100-year flood would be considered high risk areas for flooding even though the levees are functioning as designed.
That could ultimately mean, Walters said, that those individuals with mortgages living within the flood reach would be required to purchase flood insurance, which he said was expensive.
"It would affect a lot of the people in your community," he said.
Jurors asked Walters when this became a reality and why the Jury had not previously been notified.
"I confused as to who dropped the ball on this," said juror Randy Temple.
Jury President Melvin Ferrington said Taylor Engineers was hired by FEMA about two years ago to do the flood plain mapping in the parish.
"We haven't been told anything since that time until tonight," he said.
According to FEMA's website, certification that a levee meets federal "construction, maintenance and operation standards to adequately reduce the risk of flooding from a major flood requires evidence. Evidence can include a signed statement by a licensed professional engineer or Federal agency responsible for levee design. If the levee can be shown as providing this standard of risk reduction, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will 'accredit,' or recognize, the levee on flood maps..."
If the levee is decertified or a cannot be certified, it will not be accredited by FEMA and areas behind these levees will be mapped as Special Flood Hazard Areas. Flood insurance will be required "for buildings with mortgages from federally regulated or insured lenders."
FEMA says decertification also means that the levees do not meet the National Flood Insurance Program minimum standards although the "inability of a community to provide full and prompt documentation of the status or condition of the levee does not necessarily mean that the levee no longer reduces the risk of flooding from a major flood event...These communities will have up to 24 months to gather and submit the appropriate documentation."
Other parishes within the Fifth District levee system are affected by the FEMA requirements.
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