Flood insurance chief views levees

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The head of the National Flood Insurance Program took a helicopter tour Thursday over nine southeastern Louisiana levee systems, stopping partway for a closer look at levees in Lafourche Parish — one of 25 systems in a national pilot program using levee analysis to help determine flood risk.

The visit by David Miller, a deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, came as members of the congressional delegation fight the possibility of skyrocketing flood insurance premiums. At issue are homeowners with “grandfathered” lower rates because they met rules in place when they bought or built homes.

Under a bipartisan overhaul of the program last year, many face higher premiums when new flood maps are issued.

“Today is an important first step to educate these key people that other flood mitigation systems do work and must be taken into consideration during the mapping process,” Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph said after the stop in her parish. “Ignoring the work that we have done in the parish for flood mitigation is unfair to our residents and businesses. Our community invests a great deal of time and money in flood preparedness and should receive fair mapping.”

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and a likely challenger in her re-election bid next year, Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, both attended a news conference with Miller, who also met with 23 parish presidents and representatives from the banking, real estate and home building associations for a forum on flood insurance.

During the Lafourche Parish stop, he met with levee district leaders to discuss the project called LAMP, for Levee Analysis and Mapping Procedures.

“The visit by Mr. Miller to south Louisiana is appreciated as we continue to fight for fair flood insurance rates,” Cassidy said in a news release. He called the visit “a unique opportunity for Mr. Miller to learn that FEMA’s projected flood insurance rate hikes are out-of-sync with flood risks in many communities. In particular, the LAMP process must be completed before higher flood insurance rates are implemented.”

Landrieu said, “I hope Mr. Miller’s visit has given him a much needed, firsthand view of the local flood protection infrastructure our communities have built. FEMA’s current flood rate maps don’t take into account our local efforts and this visit is integral in helping us get the credit we deserve.”

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