FEMA Restricts Construction Funds for Cameron Parish

Fri January 23, 2009 - Southeast Edition

CAMERON, La. (AP) The Federal Emergency Management Agency is refusing to fund construction of new or replacement buildings in high-risk flood zones in Cameron Parish, which was devastated by flooding from Hurricane Rita in 2005.

The federal agency informed state officials about the decision in early December. The ban also includes temporary buildings.

FEMA said the zones cover more than 80 percent of Cameron Parish in southwestern Louisiana — and that’s the main reason hundreds of homeless residents have not been issued temporary housing since the storm.

Parish officials said they plan to appeal because the maps are only preliminary surveys, and a parish-hired consultant has found mistakes.

Cameron Parish Administrator Tina Horn said construction had started on many buildings with obligated funds — and FEMA backed off from those buildings with its ruling. But other buildings, such as a school Horn wants to repair, could face being totally rebuilt at a higher elevation.

In a letter to Paul Rainwater, head of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, FEMA wrote that federal regulations bar almost all approvals for new construction, or substantial improvements in such flood-prone areas as Cameron Parish.

The agency said that any replacement projects proposed by Cameron Parish needing FEMA funds that were not submitted before March, when the preliminary flood zone maps were issued, will be reviewed and possibly relocated.