BAYOU GAUCHE, La. -- New FEMA flood insurance maps could cost some St. Charles Parish homeowners big bucks.
Instead of hundreds of dollars a year, some residents will have to shell out thousands of extra dollars for coverage.
"We have the bayou behind us, which makes this really nice. We fish and ride motorbikes. It's just a great neighborhood," said Robert Dupont, describing why his family moved to their home in Bayou Gauche.
The neighborhood is where Dupont and his wife plan to retire -- that is, if they can survive a projected spike in flood insurance rates. Changes in federal legislation last year could soon mean Dupont will face a $7,000 a year flood insurance bill. Not what his family ever expected.
"They said I need to build 5 foot above sea level and my rate would be $800 a year when this re-map came along. We knew it was coming."
Now Dupont worries about his property value and having to pay such a hefty bill.
"There is not a single home in this area that has ever flooded because of tidal surges. Never," said St. Charles Parish Councilman Paul Hogan, who is criticizing FEMA's new insurance maps.
If approved, Hogan says three communities -- Bayou Gauche, Des Allemands and Paradis -- will be hit hardest.
"If the maps get adopted like they are and no benefit comes to these residents, they're going to be seeing flood insurance rates go from $250 a year to $10,000, $12,000. Some of them are going to be paying up to $20,000 a year. That's unaffordable," said Hogan, who predicts foreclosures and people forced to leave their homes.
Hogan said the St. Charles Parish needs to appeal the new maps and ask that existing levees be factored into determining base level elevations in communities. Those, he said, determine flood insurance rates.
Parish officials say a levee already exists in the Sunset Drainage District area. However, FEMA's new maps don't acknowledge it.
"FEMA will not recognize that levee because it's not a certified levee and a closed-in system," said St. Charles Parish President V.J. St. Pierre.
"It would probably be looking between $15,000 to $20,000 a year. I have two locations. It's kind of scary. Never flooded, water has never hit the front yard," said Des Allemands resident Amie Kanuppel, who built her home in a no-flood zone back in 1993. She also owns a business that will see a flood insurance rate increase.
Born and raised in the area, the St. Charles Parish resident says something needs to be done to stop families from being priced out.
"I would like to see the parish either reject the flood maps and give us some time. Or Sen. Mary Landrieu go ahead and by us some time with the rate increase," said Kanuppel.
As for what is being done, the parish president says he is working with other parish officials to turn the tide.
"Don't panic," St. Pierre said. "We're doing everything that we possibly can. In my mind I don't think congress is going to let this thing happen."
St. Charles Parish residents that spoke to Eyewitness News on Tuesday say they were promised to have their flood insurance rates "grandfathered" into the new flood insurance map plan.
However, a FEMA representative said the agency is phasing out that "grandfathering" process because of new federal regulations.
Once approved, the new flood insurance maps are expected to kick in sometime in 2014.
FEMA is holding its final open house on the new flood maps Wednesday at Belle Chasse Auditorium, 8398 Hwy 23. It is scheduled to run from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.