- Associated Press - Friday, December 25, 2020

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - One of New Orleans’ renowned Carnival krewes is getting a $340,000 federal grant to raise its headquarters to prevent flooding, city officials said.

By the 2022 spring rainy season, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club’s century-old, two-story townhouse will be raised a foot above the base flood elevation of the area with money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, City Hall said.

The city has not said how much the structure could be lifted, but based on the address’ flood elevation found on FEMA’s Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map, the building might be elevated 2.8 feet (.85 meters), The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported.

Zulu President Elroy James said since his tenure began in June 2018, he has twice had to clean up after street flooding made its way into the building. The residual dampness and mold jeopardized the organization’s collection of photos, he said.

The building, which the club has occupied since 1978, houses a bar and lounge area where appliances and stock are vulnerable to rising rainwater.

It was troubling having to worry about preserving history during tropical rainstorms, James said. “We had to start thinking about how long we could stay rooted in the Treme community,” he said.

The Carnival organization has paraded on Mardi Gras morning since 1909.

James said the city approached Zulu about the possibility of lifting the building in 2018. The Zulu headquarters was insured by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, which, according to the program’s website, is intended to “help reduce the socio-economic impact of floods.”

That meant it could qualify for FEMA’s Flood Mitigation Assistance Program. The city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness worked with the Zulu organization to write a Flood Mitigation Assistance Program funding application, and this fall the city was notified that FEMA agreed to pay to elevate the building.

According to the announcement from City Hall, it will be “the first-ever elevation grant secured by the city for a non-residential property.”

“Zulu is an invaluable part of our Carnival culture, and their headquarters is a gem of the Treme community,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said, announcing the grant.

The building flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the mayor said that the unusually active 2020 hurricane season made its vulnerability especially acute. “That’s why we’re excited to see this project become a reality,” she said.

James said he’s not sure what the project will entail or when it will begin.

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