Louisiana Flood Risk Maps Badly Outdated
The flood risk maps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relied on when it released its long-awaited guidelines for rebuilding homes and businesses in New Orleans in mid-April are badly outdated—in some cases two decades old—and thus grossly underestimate the hazards of rebuilding.
J. Robert Hunter of the Consumer Federation of America writes that his research in Mississippi shows that the 100-year flood levels predicted on the old maps are about 10 feet below what new maps forecast. But new flood maps for New Orleans won’t be released for 6 more months.
By allowing the maps to get so out of date, FEMA has misled people into building houses at levels that appear to be safe but are not. In some cases, people were misled into thinking that they live outside the flood zones. As a result, they fail to purchase the flood insurance they need.
FEMA's new guidance for the area bounded by the New Orleans levees will allow rebuilding even though, as the agency has stated, ''the flood control system will not meet the standards necessary for providing protection'' against a 100-year flood.
J. Robert Hunter, “False Claims,” Op-Ed, New York Times, 4 May 2006.