U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor and U.S. Representative Marion Berry (AR-01) today introduced legislation to protect Arkansas homeowners and businesses against attempts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to mandate that they purchase flood insurance. Lincoln, Pryor and Berry have concerns with FEMA's approach to redrawing floodplain maps, which they believe will unfairly penalize areas in Arkansas that are protected by levees, including those built and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"Our priority needs to be making sure that our constituents are protected by sound levee systems, which is why I have worked tirelessly to provide additional funding annually through the Corps of Engineers to build and maintain levees in Arkansas," Lincoln said. "I am concerned that FEMA's new policy does nothing to protect those living behind levees and that it will only place an additional financial burden on families and businesses at a time when they can least afford it."
"I have been telling FEMA officials over and over again that its current approach to flood insurance is unreasonable and detrimental to Arkansas homeowners and businesses. Dismissing existing infrastructure and forcing people to spend hundreds of dollars a year on flood insurance isn't logical," Pryor said. "This legislation offers a reasonable solution, allowing communities adequate time to strengthen flood control structures as necessary."
"For over 80 years, our local levee districts and the Corps of Engineers have maintained one of the finest levee systems in the world," Berry said. "This legislation will help them continue their great work, while ensuring the taxpayers don't get stuck with an extra bill to help FEMA's bottom line."
The legislation would prohibit FEMA from requiring those living behind areas protected by levees built or maintained by the Corps of Engineers to purchase flood insurance unless the levee owner or affected community has been formally notified of deficiencies in the levee system and has had seven years to rectify any infrastructure issues. The proposal would directly benefit communities in Northeast Arkansas, which could be affected by new floodplain maps that will identify levees in Southeast Missouri as uncertified. Because the Missouri levees are part of the Corp of Engineers system that protects Northeast Arkansas, communities in Arkansas could be forced to buy flood insurance when the new maps are published.
Since FEMA began its mapping process in Arkansas, Lincoln, Pryor and Berry have worked with local levee districts and local officials to resolve the concerns Arkansans have about the process. They have met with FEMA and the Corps of Engineers on multiple occasions to explain the negative impact their current plans would have on Arkansas.