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Section 515 Rural Housing Property Transfer Improvement Act of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

SECTION 515 RURAL HOUSING PROPERTY TRANSFER IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - January 23, 2008)


Mrs. MILLER of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this legislation.

This measure corrects a problem which has been culminating since 1974 when the National Flood Insurance Program began subsidizing flood insurance rates. These rates were designed to encourage participation in the program and to generate sufficient income to pay anticipated claims on these properties. Originally, Congress had expected that over time the percentage of these structures would decline and that most of them would be subject to actuarial rates. However that has not occurred.

This bill corrects this problem by removing subsidies for properties that are purchased in excess of a half of a million dollars.

Sadly, this is just one of the many problems the National Flood Insurance Program faces. Currently, FEMA is engaged in efforts to modernize flood maps throughout the country, which in many places, are horribly outdated. Utilizing antiquated data impacts millions of property owners, property owners that live on, near or around the Upper Great Lakes, which is essentially everything in the Great Lakes Basin upstream from Niagara Falls. So Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and the St. Mary's River, St. Clair River, the Detroit River and the Niagara River.

Unfortunately, FEMA's efforts in the upper Great Lakes are being conducted with flawed and outdated data. The data currently being used is from when Great Lakes water levels were at an all time high, and in the 20 years since this study was completed, lake levels have fallen for 11 years.

Let me use St. Clair County in my district as an example. In St. Clair County, FEMA is abusing the authority Congress granted them through management of the National Flood Insurance Program. As the agency continues to modernize the maps in the county, the effects will double the number of county residents who will be forced to purchase flood insurance even though they are at virtually no risk of flooding. More specifically, Lake St. Clair is currently more than 55 inches below the current flood level, and over 6 feet below FEMA's proposed flood level. This means that St. Clair County alone has subsidized the flood insurance program to the tune of $8.2 million. Using such flawed data is nothing more than a waste of FEMA's time and money not to mention the waste of taxpayer dollars.

How can the FEMA justify doing this? The agency claims these residents are at a higher risk of a flood and wants to raise the base flood elevation which determines the boundaries of the 100-year flood zone. As a result, states like Michigan become ATMs for FEMA to withdraw money and spend it in regions of the country that experience high levels of repeated flooding. In Michigan, we look down at the water, not up.

Certainly we can all agree that using sound science in this instance--when hundreds of millions of dollars are about to be assessed against American property owners--is the most prudent course of action. It is time that FEMA stop using antiquated data and forcing the American people into purchasing a product that some don't need.

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