News Article

Greinwich Terrace residents offered voluntary buyouts

Date:May 21, 2021
Published in:KPLC

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.