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Letter To Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency And Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary For Civil Works - U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers

Reps. Dave Loebsack, Phil Hare, Sam Graves, and Blaine Luetkemeyer were joined by more than 60 lawmakers in a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) raising concerns and urging changes to the FEMA flood map modernization process. FEMA is currently updating the nation's Flood Insurance Rate Maps and the map modernization process is creating numerous challenges for affected communities. The letter highlights several issues raised by communities such as a lack of outreach and accuracy of data in regard to the map modernization process.

"The new flood map boundaries may put many Iowa families in a difficult position - they must balance the family budget with a new and unexpected expense and a potential decline in their home value," said Loebsack. "I certainly believe that flood insurance is one of the most important investments a homeowner can make but also believe it is commonsense that homeowners should have a fair opportunity to participate in the process that will ultimately affect their home's value and be able to have a level of trust that the data being used is accurate."

"Many parts of my district, especially the village of Gulfport, were devastated by the floods of 2008," Hare said. "The last thing they can afford is for FEMA to rush through the new mapping process without addressing their legitimate concerns about everything from funding for the required engineering to insurance rates to levee certification. I call on FEMA to slow down, coordinate with the levee certification efforts already performed annually with the Corps of Engineers, consult with the stakeholders up and down the Mississippi River, and ensure the new flood maps are as fair and accurate as possible."

"I think most people agree our nation's flood maps need to be updated. However, many communities, homeowners, small businesses and levee districts in NW Missouri are frustrated with the way in which FEMA and the USACE are handling this process, and rightfully so," said Graves. "There are serious issues and challenges that have arisen throughout the flood map modernization effort and FEMA and the USACE are either unaware of these problems or unwilling to address them. We can and must do better."

"Americans deserve to have answers because of the risks they face from river flooding and that it why I am committed to working in a bipartisan fashion to secure solutions for river communities," Luetkemeyer said. "Our group is hopeful that federal officials will work with us in an expedited manner to resolve these issues and provide peace of mind to our constituents."

The letter highlighted numerous problems within the process that have yet to be resolved, asked for a response to be provided on what steps have been taken to address the issues, and highlighted the Members' willingness to work with FEMA and the USACE to improve the process.

April 22, 2010

The Honorable Craig Fugate The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy
Administrator Assistant Secretary for Civil Works
Federal Emergency Management Agency U.S Army Corps of Engineers
500 C Street, SW 441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20472 Washington, DC 20314

Dear Administrator Fugate and Secretary Darcy,

As Members of Congress, we recognize that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have distinct but complementary roles in flood prevention and recovery at the local level. Recent hurricanes along the Gulf coast and the U.S. Territories and flooding in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast regions have renewed the country's focus on preventing the loss of life and property, and FEMA is addressing the issue through the Flood Map Modernization Program. Updating our nation's Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) is an important task and we support efforts to better inform and educate residents about flood risk in their communities. However, we are very concerned about the way USACE and FEMA have approached the process and the challenges that have been created for affected communities.

We represent a diverse population with a variety of problems that have arisen as the FIRMs have been updated. Our constituents have expressed several concerns about hte flood mapping program, including:

A lack of communication and outreach with local stakeholders;
A lack of coordination between FEMA and USACE in answering questions about flood mapping, flood insurance and flood control infrastructure repairs;
A lack of recognition of locally funded flood control projects when determining flood zones;
The affordability of flood insurance;
Inadequate time and resource to complete repairs to flood control structures before flood maps are finalized;
Lack of coordination between USACE and FEMA on levee recertification;
Lack of consideration to extend deadlines for locally-funded flood control projects who work in good faith to make progress toward improvements;
Limited use of LiDAR mapping as available, and the reluctance to postpone finalization of floodplain maps if LiDAR information is to be available within one calendar year of proposed deadline;
The potential impact that new flood maps may have on economic development, particularly in small and rural communities; and
Innacuracy of the DFIRM data and the onus placed on homeowners and communities to provide accurate data.

Additionally, you may be aware that many of us have attempted to address these issues on multiple occasions in the past. However, the underlying problems with regard to the Flood Map Modernization Program have yet to be resolved. It is our hope that we are able to work together to find solutions to the overarching problems that our constituents are facing. If legislative solutions are called for, we would welcome your guidance.

We would also like to thank you for testifying before the House of Representatives several times over the course of the 111th Congress. Our understnading is that a bipartisan group of Senators has also recently contacted you with similar concerns. Because the annual flooding season is approaching and the time is of the essence, we respectfully request a timely response to this letter indicating what actions have been completed or are currently being taken by FEMA and USACE to address the above-mentioned concerns of our constituents. If you have any questions or would like to discuss the issue with our staffs, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to hearing from you.

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