Louisiana Parish Warns of Isolation for Those Refusing Flood Buyouts

June 28, 2016

Rapides Parish, La., officials are warning a handful of holdouts in south Alexandria subdivisions that they could be isolated if they don’t accept federally-financed flood buyouts.

Carrie Robinette, grant administrator for the Rapides Area Planning Commission, said officials have purchased 32 of 60 targeted homes so far. But some owners in the Greenway Park area are refusing the voluntary buyout.

“Some of them have been warned that they may be out there on an island by themselves” if they don’t agree to sell their house, Overton said. He’s been telling eligible property owners, “You need to sell because everything else around you is abandoned. So you’re going to be out here by yourself.”

Overton tells The Town Talk that nearby development along MacArthur Drive has increased flooding in the area after heavy rains. The parish received a $6.1 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to make buyout offers in the area, which is outside the Alexandria city limits.

Thomas Johnson Jr. is one of the two property owners on Linwood Lane rejecting a purchase offer.

His home was flooded 3 feet deep after 2008’s Hurricane Gustav, but he has refurbished the house and says he and his wife are comfortable there.

“I’m staying until they push me out,” said Johnson, who has lived in the house for more than 20 years.

Overton said he has also talked to drainage district officials about ways to help the subdivision avoid flooding. The project seeks to purchase and then demolish the most flood prone homes, moving residents out of harm’s way and creating green space to absorb rainfall, cutting other flooding nearby

“It has to go back to grass,” Robinette said, although a playground or park might be allowed. It’s also possible a retention pond might be built there.

Fifteen houses have already been demolished, and a new round of about 17 demolitions will begin soon. Around $2.4 million has been spent so far, and if money is left over, purchase offers could be made to owners of a more flood prone homes. Robinette said officials hope to wrap up the buyout next year.

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