Flood designations could raise rates in Orange
Cities across Orange County are appealing the preliminary FEMA flood insurance zone maps before new flood risk designations go into effect, which would likely cause an increase in flood insurance rates throughout the area and could leave some Orange County residents without any flood insurance at all. City and county officials met Dec. 13 in Bridge City to discuss the appeal and take action before FEMA’s Dec. 24 appeal deadline.
Bridge City was the first city to announce it would fight the new maps. City manager Jerry Jones said they had “no choice” but to appeal the maps since the new designations put at least 70 percent of the city in a flood zone.
“We were going to do it by ourselves,” Jones said of the decision to appeal. “It didn’t make any difference what the rest of the county did. We were concerned that much of our city was in the flood zone. That would have killed us.”
Jones said Bridge City officials made the decision to contact an engineering firm out of Louisiana, Lonnie G. Harper and Associates, that has experience with the FEMA appeal process and has documented success with appeals in Cameron Parish. They organized a presentation Dec. 13 and invited city officials from across the county to attend. Jones said practically everyone jumped on board and vowed to join Bridge City in the appeal process.
“The only city not included was Pinehurst, and they had a very small change to their flood zone and did not think the new maps would have much effect on them,” Jones said. “But because the information that the engineers had to put together to do the appeal included Pinehurst, they were also included in the appeal. All of Orange County appealed.”
The cities of Bridge City, Orange, Pine Forest, Pinehurst, Rose City, Vidor, West Orange along with the unincorporated areas in Orange County were all included in the appeal.
Orange city manager Shawn Oubre indicated the city of Orange approved funding for a “portion of the appeal,” an appeal he said the engineering firm estimated would likely reach costs in the “six figure range” based on its previous experience.
“This will allow the city to take time and look at a cost analysis of the current draft, what may be changed, and the future costs to continue in the appeal,” according to Oubre.
Jones, who sent the appeal to FEMA on behalf of all protesting entities, received confirmation of receipt of the appeal from FEMA Region 6 representative Larry Boice, and now the cities of Orange County are awaiting the results. The appeal process is potentially lengthy and could take up to two years for a decision, Jones said, but until then, Orange County would operate under the flood maps currently in place.