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Permit office shocked to learn about Restore Louisiana elevation requirement

5 years 4 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, October 03 2018 Oct 3, 2018 October 03, 2018 10:10 PM October 03, 2018 in News
Source: WBRZ

WALKER - A family has rebuilt their house after the August 2016 flood to the specifications they were told by the City of Walker. Now, they're learning those specifications are not the same as Restore Louisiana's conditions.

Brandi Hart says her property flooded with about eight feet of water. Five feet of that flood water got inside the house. There was so much damage the foundation moved and it was deemed substantially damaged by the City of Walker.

"The walls actually weren't even touching the house," said Hart.

Her family rebuilt on top of six and a half feet of dirt and moved into the new home earlier this year. She remembers all the trucks that drove in load after load of dirt.

"It just kept getting higher and higher and higher, when does it stop? It's way above what our house was before," said Hart.

The family applied for Restore Louisiana as soon as the surveys were available. They'd been waiting for two years, holding on to hope that they'd receive some reimbursement money. Last month, Hart says she got some good news and then some bad news From Restore Louisiana.

"They came back and said everything is great, however, I'm sorry," she said.

Restore Louisiana tells WBRZ when the Federal Register for the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds were allocated to the program on November 9, 2017, it included language that any new construction or substantial improvements funded by the program requires elevation at Base Flood Elevation (BFE) plus two feet.

The City of Walker says this is new information. Walker adopted one foot above BFE policy, but this is the first it's hearing about two feet by way of Restore Louisiana standards.

"We wouldn't have changed our policy, but we would have made sure people knew," said Walker Water & Sewer Department Superintendent Jamie Etheridge.

Documentation sent by the City of Walker to WBRZ shows it was working with an outdated manual from June 7, 2017. Restore says the manual has been updated multiple times since then, but the two foot elevation requirements were written in a plan that dates back to January 2017.

Walker notes that 714 structures flooded in 2016. Of those flooded structures, 464 building permits have been issued since, to gut and rebuild. Only two structures were considered substantially damaged and that homeowner also falls short of Restore Louisiana's two foot above BFE standards.

There are 12 inches that stand between Hart and a $144,000 reimbursement check.

"They should have communicated with everything a whole lot better about everything," she said.

Restore says homeowners that don't meet this two foot above BFE standard aren't ineligible for the program, but until they meet the standard, the program cannot reimburse them using federal funds. Restore says if Hart were to elevate her home another foot she would be eligible for grant funds.

While the reimbursement check really would have helped Hart and her family, she says she will not be raising her home anymore and it's time to move on.

"There's not really much I can do about it," she said.

Restore says documents in which elevation standards for the program were established are all public record. It says it continues to work to improve they way they inform and educate people about the program.

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