DENHAM SPRINGS – “It depends.”

Those words by Kim Ryals, of Quality Engineering and Surveying, covered questions tossed out Thursday before a town hall meeting to explain the federal Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program to city residents.

Ryals said things ranging from base flood elevation to how much the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will pay differ with each situation.

“Most of you are here because you’re trying to rebuild and so is your city,” Mayor Gerard Landry told the audience of more than 50 people.

“The flood has caused us a lot of grief and caused us a lot of questions we can’t get the answers to. And anyone who has worked with FEMA understands how difficult that process can be,” he said. 

Ryals and two colleagues from the Port Vincent business are helping Denham Springs residents and the city prepare their FMA applications.

“We wanted to bring information to you tonight, so you can make good decisions,” the mayor said.

Landry praised the work of Jeanette Landry, the city’s emergency recovery coordinator, and said she will be the contact person for residents taking part in the FEMA program. 

The FMA program focuses on homeowners who suffer repeated flooding or have filed multiple insurance claims for flooding.

“FEMA wants to mitigate issues,” that lead to repeated flooding, Ryals said.

The program, to be administered in Louisiana by the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, offers two choices, she said, elevation or acquisition.

“It’s solely up to you,” Ryals said.

Elevation will raise the house to the base flood elevation.

Acquisition means the house will be demolished, the property sold to the city and it becomes green space, she said.

“After closing, you walk away,” Ryals said. “The city takes over.

 “Nothing can be built on it,” she said, but the city has plans for the open space.

If a homeowner chooses elevation, the house will be elevated to the 100-year flood elevation, according to Jamie Seal, vice president of operations for Quality Engineering.

Ryals said a homeowner will need an elevation certificate, which will probably run $350 to $400 but will be reimbursed, photos of all four sides of a house and three elevation quotes.

If a person wants to raise his home higher than the base flood elevation, he would have to pay for it, she added.

The homeowner also must prove he has flood insurance and a post-flood appraisal, she said.

Someone with a flood plain claim, a secondary residence and businesses are allowed to participate, Seal said.

A house may fall into one of three categories: severe repetitive loss, repetitive loss and non-severe repetitive loss. These will determine how much FEMA will pay to elevate or acquire the house.

--Severe repetitive loss: FEMA pays 100 percent.

--Repetitive loss: FEMA pays 90 percent; the homeowner pays 10 percent.

--Non-severe repetitive loss: FEMA pays 75 percent; the homeowner pays 25 percent.

“It’s your decision to elevate or acquire,” Ryals told the audience. “We will be doing the application for you. We will let you know which of the three categories a house will fall in.”

Ryals handed out folders with FMA applications, eight pages of forms to be filled out.

FEMA has $160 million available, but it will be competitive grants, she said.

“We’re going against other states,” Ryals added, but in the past more than 50 percent of the applications from Louisiana have been approved.

Applications can be filed beginning Oct 1, she said.

The deadline to apply is Jan. 31; FEMA will decide by May 31, she said.

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