- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Many homes damaged by flooding during Hurricane Katrina probably will have to be raised 1 to 3 feet to qualify for flood insurance, officials said yesterday as the government released its projections on the city’s flood danger.

The projections from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), issued more than seven months after the hurricane, have been awaited eagerly, because they are considered crucial for residents who are deciding whether or how to rebuild their homes and businesses. The information also will be key in planning the city’s reconstruction and in determining aid for homeowners.

“This will enable people to get on with their lives,” said Donald Powell, the chief federal coordinator for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery.

The so-called flood advisories are early drafts of flood maps that show how high the water is expected to rise during a once-in-100-years storm and how well the levees would protect the city. The advisories detail the risks in each section of the city and outlying areas.

In drawing up the advisories, government specialists took into account the increasingly active hurricane seasons, recent erosion of coastal land that acted as a buffer against large storms and the sinking of land in parts of southern Louisiana.

FEMA had delayed the release of the advisories several times since the start of the year as researchers incorporated new post-Katrina data.

Mr. Powell and other officials declined to estimate how many homes would have to be raised to qualify for flood insurance. He described the recommendations as good news for homeowners, saying raising a house no more than 3 feet is “not that dramatic.”

Most of the houses that would be affected are structures erected on ground-level slabs in the past 50 years, after much of the city’s levee and canal systems were built.

In historic neighborhoods, many homes may not have to be raised at all, even if they flooded during Katrina, because they were built on foundations several feet aboveground.

Raising a house typically involves lifting it with hydraulic jacks and constructing new wooden or steel supports.

The job can take one to two weeks and generally costs about $40,000 for the first foot and $8,000 to $12,000 for each additional foot, said Phil Pieri, regional manager of a Texas-based foundation-repair company that operates in 18 states.

Mr. Powell said the White House’s new $2.5 billion request for flood protection, if approved by Congress, would pay to replace flood walls and raise levees surrounding 98 percent of the homes in the region.

The long-term work, which is expected to be completed by 2010, includes the replacement of 30 miles of flood walls, said Lt. Gen. Carl Strock of the Army Corps of Engineers.

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