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Letter to Administrator Fugate and Secretary Darcy

U.S. Sen. David Vitter last week joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in calling on FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers to address growing concerns regarding efforts to update Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).

"Our letter spells out several key areas of concern with the process being undertaken by FEMA and the Corps, including poor communication with local stakeholders about levee certification and a failure to account for local flood control efforts currently under way," said Vitter. "For a process that will have such a dramatic effect on homeowners and businesses across Louisiana and across America, this needs to be more transparent."

When completed, the FIRMs will outline the areas in which residents will be required to buy FEMA-administered flood insurance. Vitter recently introduced the Community Protection During Levee Recertification Act, which would prevent changes to the current FIRMs from being implemented in areas where there is an active effort under way to fix levees. Such a policy would block massive increases in insurance premiums for the duration of levee repairs, protecting communities from incurring even greater costs during an already expensive process.

In the letter, Vitter and 15 bipartisan cosigners requested a meeting with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. The text of the letter and a full list of signers are below.

March 18, 2010

Dear Administrator Fugate and Secretary Darcy,

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and FEMA have distinct but complementary roles in flood prevention and recovery at the local level. Recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and flooding in the Midwest have renewed the country's focus on preventing the loss of life and property as a result of flooding, and FEMA is addressing the issue through the Flood Map Modernization Program. Updating our nation's Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) is an important task, and we support the effort to secure better information to educate residents about flood risk in their communities. However, we are very concerned about the way the USACE and FEMA have approached the process and the challenges that has created for affected communities.

We represent a diverse group of constituents with a variety of problems that have arisen as the FIRMs have been updated. Our constituents have expressed several concerns about the flood mapping program, including:

* A lack of communication and outreach with local stakeholders;
* A lack of coordination between FEMA and USACE in answering questions about flood mapping, flood insurance and flood control infrastructure repairs;
* A lack of recognition of locally funded flood control projects when determining flood zones;
* The affordability of flood insurance;
* Inadequate time and resources to complete repairs to flood control structures before flood maps are finalized, and;
* Potential impacts new flood maps might have on economic development, particularly in small and rural communities.

As you are probably aware, many of us have attempted to address these issues administratively or legislatively on multiple occasions in the past. However, the underlying problems with regard to the Flood Map Modernization Program have yet to be resolved. It is our hope that we are able to work together to find solutions to the overarching problems that our constituents are facing. If legislative solutions are called for, we would welcome your guidance.

To that end, we respectfully request an opportunity to meet with you to discuss levee certification, the Flood Map Modernization Program, and issues relating to the implementation of new FIRMs. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue with our staffs, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Mark Pryor
Thad Cochran
Blanche Lincoln
Mary Landrieu
David Vitter
Dick Durbin
Roland Burris
Charles Grassley
Tom Harkin
Chris Bond
Claire McCaskill
Dianne Feinstein
Sam Brownback
Frank Lautenberg
Robert Menendez
Jon Tester

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