They may be sitting in an elbow made by a bend in the Mississippi River, just miles from the point where the mighty river mixes into the salty Gulf of Mexico. But residents of Algiers Point, the second-oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, don’t like paying flood insurance any more than most Americans do. And they’re challenging new FEMA flood-plain maps that moved the neighborhood from the X zone to the A zone (indicating a 1% risk of flooding in any given year).
The New Orleans Advocate has the story (see: “City Hall joins Algiers Point residents in challenging new FEMA flood maps,” by Jeff Adelson). “At least 80 West Bank residents have filed appeals challenging the maps,” the paper reports. “They paid for surveys themselves to show their properties are at a high enough elevation to avoid the risk of flooding, said Vlad Ghelase, an Algiers Point resident who has been organizing the opposition to the new maps.
‘It’s absurd to have a flood zone shown in Algiers Point when Broadmoor or Lakeview, which were underwater (after Hurricane Katrina), don’t,’ he said.”
FEMA’s decision to reclassify the neighborhood’s flood risk was based not only on a new survey of the location’s topography, but also on a change in the agency’s expectations for rainfall, the paper reported (see: “New FEMA flood maps could mean higher insurance costs for Algiers Point,” by Jeff Adelson). “The change came after FEMA recalculated the risk of flooding during massive rain events, ones that have a 1 percent chance of occurring in any year,” the paper reports. “Based on new projections from a variety of federal agencies, the total rainfall that would be expected in such an event was increased from 12.57 inches in 24 hours to 14.25 inches in the same time period, changing the extent of predicted flooding, said Stephanie Moffet, a spokeswoman for the agency. At the same time, new imaging of the area showed a more severe slope from the levees along the Mississippi River to the internal areas of Algiers, meaning the internal areas are at a lower elevation than previously thought, Moffet said. That means buildings in those areas would need to be raised to a higher elevation to be high enough to avoid flooding, according to the maps.”
But city officials who question the new designation say the agency may have bad geographic data. Reports the Advocate: “According to the city, a key problem with the maps is that they incorrectly show Opelousas Avenue as a ridge. That means FEMA’s modeling assumed the street would act like a levee, preventing water from receding from the area and increasing the flood risk. Those elevations were calculated using scans taken from the air, and Ghelase said he suspects the oak trees that line Opelousas may have created interference that led to the incorrect idea that the street is elevated.”