Nathan Stubbs

FEMA backs down from preliminary flood maps

by Nathan Stubbs

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is tempering enforcement of new preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps that could dramatically alter designated floodways in Lafayette, which affect insurance rates and building regulations. Earlier this year, city officials met with FEMA regarding a series of issues it had with the new floodways. In a letter to City-Parish President Joey Durel dated April 1, FEMA Assistant Administrator of the Mitigation Directorate David Maurstad writes, “During the meeting, you raised several technical issues related to the new models and topography used to create the preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map for Lafaeytte Parish. I want to commend the parish for taking the initiative to analyze these issues.” Maurstad adds FEMA would continue working with the parish on possibly revising the updated maps and that, at this point, they should be considered “informational only” while the parish may continue using previously identified floodways for all practical purposes involving “floodplain management, insurance rating and insurance purchase requirements.”

This represents a reversal from a directive FEMA put out last year with the new preliminary maps, stating they should be considered “the best available information” and effective immediately. The issue caused a small panic at City Hall, where officials found the revised floodways covering a number of new developments in the city, thereby threatening some building permits. Two of the areas in question included Louisiana Avenue at I-10, where Stirling Properties is developing a major new shopping center, and parts of Olde Town at Mill Creek, a traditional neighborhood development in the works off Verot School Road between Lafayette and Milton. In a released statement, Durel called the latest letter from FEMA “excellent news for Lafayette Parish. We felt like we had made good arguments during our meeting in DC that there were problems with the draft maps, and this letter confirms that our arguments were well received by FEMA."