One week after touring Milton-Freewater's levees and organizing an inter-agency roundtable on the next steps for repairs, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) yesterday voted to give residents much-needed breathing room as efforts to repair and re-certify the levees continue.
"Hopefully this will help Milton-Freewater and similarly situated communities that would otherwise face significant costs on fixed incomes," Rep. Walden said. "The bottom line is this bill gives Milton-Freewater the important breathing room it needs right now and for the coming five years as we continue to work toward a solution that will bring the levees back into compliance."
The Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act (HR 5114) overwhelmingly passed the House today with Rep. Walden's vote.
The bill would delay for five years the mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement for areas designated as Special Flood Hazard Areas after Sept. 1, 2008 -- that includes much of the city of Milton-Freewater. Under current law, Milton-Freewater residents would be required to purchase the flood insurance once the new flood maps are finalized on Sept. 1, 2010.
However, if residents decide they'd like to purchase flood coverage through the National Flood Insurance Plan (NFIP), the bill allows Milton-Freewater residents for the next five years to purchase flood insurance at a much-reduced rate: from $237 to $388 per year.
Without the bill, the reduced rates would only be available for two years. After that, the rates for some homes would be much higher -- up to $1,000 per year. The rates for business properties would be much higher. Across all the affected homes and businesses, the potential savings could be in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.
The legislation now heads to the Senate where it must be approved before it can be signed into law by the President.
This vote on the bill comes shortly after Rep. Walden met with community leaders and federal agencies to discuss repairing the levees in Milton-Freewater. One of the main topics of discussion was flood insurance and the cost it will have to the community.
It was his second trip to Umatilla County this year, part of a 538-mile, four-county swing through eastern Oregon last week.
Representative Greg Walden is the House Republican Leadership Chairman and represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon.