Levee district chief praises flood insurance bill passage
St. Mary Levee District Executive Director Tim Matte
The U.S. Senate flood insurance bill passed Thursday should keep St. Mary Parish from seeing the large flood insurance premium increases that were predicted, St. Mary Levee District Executive Director Tim Matte said.
“All that’s left to do is for the president to sign it,” Matte said. The bill will give the region a good amount of relief moving forward in regard to flood insurance rates, Matte said. The House passed the same bill last week, which made changes to the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012.
The levee district held its monthly meeting Thursday in Franklin.
Levee district officials have met FEMA officials and plan to provide FEMA with a conditional letter of map revision for the parish’s levees, Matte said. The levee district would present those proposed levee improvements to FEMA to see if the revisions would meet FEMA’s standards for flood protection, Matte said.
“We look forward to continuing that dialogue as we move projects such as the Morgan City levee and certainly Wax Lake East to get them to full certification,” Matte said.
If the president signs the bill, the parish will have time to raise its deficient levees before any flood insurance rates increase, Matte said.
FEMA’s affordability study, which would look at the impact of flood insurance increases on those in the region, is also funded in the Senate bill, Matte said.
Another significant part of the bill is that the grandfathering provision was reinstated, Matte said. “People who built their house under the rules that were under existence at the time who maintain their insurance will be able to continue their insurance at that rate,” Matte said.
Actuarial determinations of flood insurance rates were included in the bill, but the Society of Actuaries stated those determinations were misused by including Hurricane Katrina losses in the actuarial analysis, Matte said. Hurricane Katrina was a 400-year storm. “You build a system that’s designed for a 100-year storm, and you apply a loss that occurred in a 400-year, that’s not an appropriate use to determine actuarially what those rates should be. In other words, they were skewed,” Matte said.
Therefore, that actuarial computation is among technical issues that need to be addressed, Matte said. The bill also includes a target not to assess anyone’s flood insurance at more than 1 percent of the property value. “To me, that kind of makes a little sense,” Matte said. “We’ve got a $200,000 house, then the highest my flood insurance should be is $2,000. That’s something we might be able to live with.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, Matte announced that work is complete on preliminary design on a portion of the Morgan City Levee Construction and Improvement Project, which includes backwater levees from Justa Street up to the city’s mainline levee on the north side of the city.
“The bad news is the cost of construction is significantly higher than what was previously budgeted,” Matte said. The main reason for those increases in projected cost is because the ground the levee sits on is not adequate particularly for the drainage canals adjacent to the levees, he said. Engineering firm T. Baker Smith is calling for a significant widening of the levee that starts with moving the levee away from the drainage canal, he said.
Marc Rogers of T. Baker Smith said engineers are trying to trim possibly as much as $1.5 million off the current project cost of $11.7 million.
The Tiger Island floodwall project in Morgan City has gotten approval to be constructed during the year, John Eblen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. “All we have to do is wrap up the plans and specs and get the internal reviews done. And we can guarantee an award by August of this fiscal year,” Eblen said.
The project consists of removing 40 feet of I-wall, realigning the wall with levee expansion, installing 300 feet of L-wall and raising the remainder of the levee up to the Bayou Boeuf locks, Eblen said.
In other business, the commission:
—Renewed Matte’s annual contract with a $700 per month pay raise.
—Approved sending a Project Partnership Agreement draft to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
—Approved signing a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Wax Lake East Drainage District.
—Approved a resolution thanking outgoing Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves for his support of the levee district.