We knew that the costs of flooding along the Mississippi River would be huge, and that the choices of what to protect and what to sacrifice would be difficult. The Army Corps of Engineers opened spillways to release water into less-populated areas and prevent flooding in cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but at a price: Thousands of homes and many farms lie in the affected areas.
A new financial study has pinned down some of those costs. More than 21,000 homes, worth over $2.2 billion, may be flooded. About 4,500 of them are outside the FEMA-determined 100-year flood zones. Homes that lie within the flood zones and that have mortgages must, by federal law, carry flood insurance, but homes outside the zones have no such requirement. The study estimates that about half of those 4,500 homes are not covered by flood insurance.
The flood maps themselves have been controversial, with some homeowners appealing FEMA decisions that placed their property within a flood hazard zone. Most objections in the past have been from people who did not want their property classified as being in a floodplain—it discourages development on the land and results in higher insurance and other costs—but there are now likely to be protests in the other direction, with some flooded-out owners arguing that, but for the government decision to open the spillways, their uninsured property wouldn’t have been affected.