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Bridge City Council votes to hire company to help with appealing new FEMA flood zone maps
BRIDGE CITY - by Lauren Huet
The Bridge City Council voted unanimously to contract with Lonnie G. Harper & Associates to appeal the new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood map. One council member was absent.
"I really feel like it's a matter that Bridge City has no choice in," said Bridge City Mayor Kirk Roccaforte. "We will have to look at avenues and ways to fund this."
Filing the appeal will cost roughly 85-thousand dollars. Mayor Roccaforte says other entities in Orange County have expressed interest in joining Bridge City's appeal, which would lessen the cost for Bridge City.
"We've been looking at appeals for the last 6 to 8 months," said the city manager of Bridge City, Jerry Jones, "and we finally found a group that has successfully appealed the rate maps in Louisiana, and that group is going to work for us."
Mayor Roccaforte says the looming flood insurance hikes have already harmed Bridge City's housing market.
"It's impacted the city already and the maps aren't even in effect yet," said Mayor Roccaforte. "We don't feel that these maps are the way they should be, but we have no other avenue other than to hire someone to show data to be different."
FEMA's new flood maps place 70-80 percent of Bridge City in a flood zone. Mayor Roccaforte says the maps will take effect in September 2014, and flood insurance premiums will drastically increase.
"It could be as much as 200 or 300 percent in some areas," said Mayor Roccaforte, "and it's not going to be good. It's not good for the city. I don't think the city can survive it."
"With 70 percent of the city in the flood zone, the problem is future real estate sales will be affected with people having to pay much higher insurance premiums," said Jones. "So, we need to try and get as much of the city out of the flood zone as we can."
Both Jones and the mayor say the city is backed into a corner.
"We survived one of the worst disasters that there ever was in Ike, and we came back and we came back strong, and our city did a great job. Our citizens are just remarkable in the way they did that. I honestly think this is worse than Hurricane Ike," said Roccaforte.
If the appeal is accepted, the new FEMA flood map will be put on hold. Mayor Roccaforte says if the appeal is not accepted, the new map will go into effect next September.