U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) today said a newly released study of the Federal flood insurance program supports their ongoing efforts to prevent homeowners and businesses from being forced to purchase flood insurance policies if they are already protected by accredited levees.
The Senators today responded to findings in "Levees and the National Flood Insurance Program: Improving Policies and Practices," a report released Wednesday by the National Academies of Sciences. The NAS's National Research Council found that "at this time there is no sound reason to extend the mandatory purchase requirement -- which requires property owners with a federally backed mortgage located in the 100-year floodplain to purchase flood insurance -- to areas behind accredited levees."
Pryor and Cochran successfully argued against such mandates last year during the Senate debate to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) (Public Law 112-141).
"Senator Cochran and I have repeatedly fought against FEMA's efforts to force families who live behind sound flood control infrastructure to spend hundreds--or even thousands--of dollars on flood insurance they don't simply need," Pryor said. "With the release of today's report, I hope FEMA will improve their risk management assessments and remove their proposals for unnecessary flood insurance mandates once and for all."
"This report endorses our idea that the federal government should not force taxpayers who have already invested in levee protection to buy flood insurance on top of it," Cochran said. "I am encouraged that FEMA enlisted top scientists to make thoughtful recommendations about this program. I am hopeful this report will lead to a more realistic understanding of flood risk for all citizens and lead to improvements in the flood insurance program."
Last June, Pryor and Cochran worked to overturn one-size-fits-all provisions in the NFIP legislation that would have mandated the purchase of insurance and imposed burdensome land-use restrictions for all areas protected by a levee. The Senators contended that these provisions would have forced communities to pay multiple times for flood protection--once for constructing and maintaining flood control structures, twice for mandated flood insurance, and a third time for mitigation and land-use restrictions.
The 332-page study, which was requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), also recommends that FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should jointly develop a common, risk-based approach to levee assessments. Overall, the report says FEMA needs to develop a modern flood risk analysis tools using "21st computational and mapping techniques" to provide more precise risk assessments to public officials and property owners.
It is unclear at this point what acquiring such tools might cost, and the NAS findings did not address cost. Pryor and Cochran led a successful effort to provide more precision in 2011, convincing FEMA to abandon its "without levees" analysis policy and find an interim solution that provides greater fidelity in flood risk modeling in areas behind levees.
* NAS Report: http://bit.ly/160DM2O
* NAS News Release: http://bit.ly/YoUpmz