Residents in Central may no longer be in a flood zone - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Residents in Central may no longer be in a flood zone

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CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) -

Some residents in the city of Central have paid thousands every year for flood insurance, but a new engineering study has found thousands of homeowners may not truly be in a flood zone.

"All of this area at Sullivan and Wax coming down Sullivan towards Greenwell Springs Road is recommended to be taken out," said David Barrow, with the city of Central, looking over one of the map panels.

The information in the maps and new elevations could end up saving residents thousands of dollars.

"I physically counted. Counted neighborhoods and lots. I came up with 2,230 homes," said Kathi Cowen, the former floodplain manager for the city.

Cowen says the 2,230 is the number of homeowners that could find themselves listed in Zone X, which means out of the floodplain. Cowen says she became concerned last year, after finding the flood maps for the Beaver Bayou area were not accurate.

She also has a home in the affected area.

"When you live out there, you know areas that flood and areas that don't. Some of the maps just don't really reflect that knowledge."

Beaver Bayou has not had a detailed study since the 1980's. In 2008, when new flood maps were released, some homeowners who never paid flood insurance suddenly found themselves shelling out up to $1,000 a year.

Cowen took her concerns to one of the councilman and city officials brought on an engineer.

Barrow says they did so to see if the elevations from the engineer matched with the elevations FEMA had on their maps. He says that's when some discrepancies were found.

Surveyors looked at 100 different points along the bayou and found a huge section was mapped inaccurately.

"The Beaver Bayou drainage that was studied here is almost 40 square miles. The city is 66 square miles. It's almost 2/3 the city," Barrow said.

Both Barrow and Cowen says FEMA does not have the manpower to do yearly detailed studies, so sometimes it is up to municipalities to do the leg work. Barrow says usually if an engineer has done an in-depth study FEMA will accept those maps.

The new study for the Beaver Bayou floodplain will be presented to councilman in Central next Tuesday, July 23, 2013. It will them be forwarded on to FEMA for review. The process could take a year before FEMA makes a final decision.

One councilman is considering looking at other areas, to see if other flood maps are correct.

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