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Greinwich Terrace residents offered voluntary buyouts

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 8:23 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Residents of flood-ravaged Greinwich Terrace are being offered voluntary buyouts.

After years of flooding, residents in the Terrace neighborhood of Lake Charles have demanded answers and solutions to the drainage problems in that area.

Many residents in the Terrace flooded again this week - after flooding during Hurricane Delta in 2020 and during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Since then, the neighborhood has taken hit after hit, and Monday’s flood was the final straw for a lot of the residents.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Friday that the voluntary residential buyouts are being funded with $30 million from a $1.2 billion federal mitigation grant Louisiana received access to last September.

Gov. Edwards office says the buyout program furthers the Louisiana Watershed Initiative.

While this buyout program is welcomed by some, many are wondering if the state will offer them the true value of their home in addition to all the money they’ve shelled out in repairs since Hurricane Laura.

”What does a buyout even mean? Is that footage? You’re going to get so many dollars per foot,” said Tony Toussand.

It’s the $30 million question on the minds of residents in the Terrace following the announcement by Governor Edwards.

”Engineers didn’t design the canal deep enough. And now they flooded up a whole neighborhood, it’s just causing corruption in people’s life,” said Toussand.

Prior to Monday’s flood, Toussand and his family were about six weeks from moving back into their home after making repairs from Hurricanes Laura and Delta. While news of the buyout is a welcoming sign, he’s doubtful that he’d ever leave his home.

”If they would just dig it deeper, then we could stay here. This used to be a prime location. It’s got history all the way back to the admirals.”

Clorinda Mitchell says she’ll take the buyout but only if the price is right.

”You need iron furniture just to live in your house - iron beds. You can’t get the nice things anymore because soon as you get it and you’re proud that you have it, it’s gone again. It’s like money going down the drain right out of your pocket,” Mitchell said.

Calcasieu Parish Planning & Development Assistant Director Jennifer Cobian says although this won’t be the answer to the growing list of problems many residents face, the ultimate goal is to get them to higher ground.

“They are at a very low elevation, and they are also the lowest spot in the watershed. So, they are the area that all of the water in the watershed drains to when it’s trying to get to the Kayouche Coulee,” Cobian said.

In August 2019, the Council on Watershed Management agreed to use the eight watershed regions as a starting point to coordinate efforts among parishes and distribute project funds.

“If a person was to build a structure in the Terrace neighborhood today, they would have to go four feet higher than where they’re at currently, on average,” Cobian said.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development signed a grant agreement with the state on Sept. 17, 2020, establishing a $1.2 billion line of credit in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds for flood risk reduction priorities throughout Louisiana.

The CDBG-MIT Action Plan details the state’s approach for using the funds, including projects, data collection, modeling, and policy measures that advance the Louisiana Watershed Initiative’s long-term resilience objectives. The state accepted public comments on the draft Action Plan in fall 2019 and addressed all comments in the final plan submitted to HUD on Dec. 23. On Feb. 20, HUD approved the Action Plan.

“There were several drainage models ran in an effort to identify drainage improvements. None of them were proven to be successful. They were lowering the water but the water would still be in the homes during these large 100-year and 200-year events,” said Cobian. “We want to use the area that is bought out, and we could potentially increase the capacity of the Kayouche Coulee in that area. That could help the neighbors that do stay in the neighborhood.”

Cobian says the maximum amount that the state would offer a homeowner to buy out their property is $250,000.

“There’s not a per-property budget. It is going to be based on today’s fair market value at a price per square foot,” Cobian said.

Greinwich Terrace residents may contact LWI staff for more details at 866.735.2001

To learn more about the Louisiana Watershed Initiative for our region, click HERE.

STATEMENTS ON BUYOUT PROGRAM:

Gov. Edwards: “This week’s floods are a painful reminder of the devastation water continues to inflict on our state—something the people of Southwest Louisiana know all too well—and how urgent it is that we continue making investments to create more resilient, sustainable communities. As we continue to press the federal government for additional recovery funds following hurricanes Laura and Delta, we have been working with impacted communities to provide immediate relief to our residents and fund projects that align with federal grant requirements and our state’s long-term resilience objectives. Through the Louisiana Watershed Initiative, we are working to address the needs of communities throughout the state with projects like buyouts, where the long-term flood risk reduction benefits are unquestionable.”

Calcasieu Parish Police Jury President Brian Abshire: “We’ve been working with the Louisiana Watershed Initiative to identify solutions that address the impacts of recent storms, and recently zeroed in on the Greinwich Terrace neighborhood as a community best suited for this program. These buyouts will not only deliver immediate relief to the residents of this area who want to relocate out of harm’s way but also provide greater capacity to store water and benefit many more throughout the floodplain and beyond. It is exactly the type of investment we need to help our residents, propel our recovery efforts and give hope to southwest Louisiana that solutions are on the way.”

Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter: “Lake Charles has been devastated by storms, flooding and other disasters in just the past year alone, demanding quick action and innovative solutions to help our residents recover and position our community to thrive for years to come. This program gives our residents a reason to be optimistic about the future, no matter how painful the present, and demonstrates our collective commitment to enacting real change in the flood-prone areas of our state that need it the most.”

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