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Letter to the Honorable W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today joined a group of bi-partisan senators who asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to acknowledge the existence of levees that protect towns along the Mississippi River in the Metro East region and other flood plains around the nation.

In a letter to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate, Kirk and the other federal lawmakers said failure to include the levees or other flood-control structures its latest flood-plain analysis could negatively impact the Mississippi River towns, especially during economically uncertain times.

"We know these levees exist, which is why I'm asking FEMA to take them into account,'" Senator Kirk said. "Not only can an incorrect analysis harm future use of certain properties, it can make it much more expensive to develop the property."

In 2007, FEMA announced it planned to reclassify most of the nation's flood plains as "high risk" unless the Army Corp of Engineers certified that the levees would withstand a 100-year flood.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) successfully urged FEMA to delay implementation of the new flood maps until the end of this year. Kirk joined Durbin in signing the letter sent today to Fugate.

Officials in three Illinois counties, meanwhile, have invested nearly $130 million to strengthen the levees. Financed by a temporary quarter-cent sales tax, the work is scheduled for completion within the next three years.

The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Administrator
Federal Emergency Management Agency
500 C Street, Southwest
Washington, D.C. 20472

Dear Administrator Fugate:

We write to urge you to use your current authorities to discontinue the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) use of "without levees" analysis to determine new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) in cases where a final determination has not been made and an affected community objects to such analysis in favor of more precise methods of flood modeling. "Without levee" modeling methods assume that a levee or flood control structure that exists in physical reality does not exist for the purposes of modeling, reducing the precision of flood maps and eroding public confidence of the mapping process itself.

We value the efforts of the National Flood Insurance Program to accurately reflect flood risk to the American public, but we also understand the negative impact the issuance of insufficiently accurate or insufficiently precise maps can have on communities at a time of economic uncertainty across our country. In investigating the methods and processes FEMA uses to make such flood hazard determinations, we have found that FEMA knowingly assumes that certain flood control structures that do exist in physical reality do not exist in the ensuring FEMA models, primarily for the sake of simplicity.

We support FEMA's efforts of maximize taxpayer dollars by choosing simpler, more cost-effective modeling techniques when appropriate. However, in cases where FEMA treats a flood control structure as if it has been completely wiped off of the map, we may be unnecessarily devaluing property and hurting the economies of cities, towns, counties and businesses. This approach is particularly troubling since FEMA has the tools at its disposal to obtain more precise data. Just because a levee is under repair or needs to be recertified does not mean that it provides no flood protection at all or that its level of protection cannot be sufficiently modeled. Current FEMA modeling techniques allow us to more precisely reflect the level of flood protection of such structures. When American jobs are at risk, FEMA should use the methods readily available to it rather than settle for an all-or-nothing approach, thus shifting the financial burden from the federal government to local governments and their citizens.

For these reasons, we request that you prohibit the use of such all-or-nothing modeling approaches when a community notifies you that it believes that it is negatively affected by "without levees" modeling. Even with such a prohibition in place, we are hopeful that FEMA will continue to use simpler, more cost-effective techniques when no community is harmed.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about this request.

Sincerely,

Richard Durbin
United States Senator

Mark Pryor
United States Senator

Tom Harkin
United States Senator

Ron Wyden
United States Senator

Mary Landrieu
United States Senator

Charles Schumer
United States Senator

Thad Cochran
United States Senator

Roger Wicker
United States Senator

Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

Pat Roberts
United States Senator

Mike Crapo
United States Senator

Lamar Alexander
United States Senator

Frank Lautenberg
United States Senator

Jim Webb
United States Senator

Claire McCaskill
United States Senator

Amy Klobuchar
United States Senator

Jon Tester
United States Senator

Jeff Merkley
United States Senator

Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator

David Vitter
United States Senator

Mike Johanns
United States Senator

Mark Kirk
United States Senator

James Risch
United States Senator

Jerry Moran
United States Senator

John Boozman
United States Senator

Roy Blunt
United States Senator

Michael B. Enzi
United States Senator


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