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Letter To The Editor Regarding Fema And The Levee System


Location: Washington, DC

Rob Rash had it right in "FEMA officials get a frosty reception" in the April 23, 2010 edition of the Jonesboro Sun.

After several meetings with FEMA officials it seems they want to enforce a scheme to cheat homeowners in the river valleys of America. In my estimation they have no intention of hearing our argument or even taking this matter seriously.

In light of FEMA's mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the National Flood Insurance Program was predictably plunged into debt. Rather than spread out the financial burden nationally, FEMA has asked us to foot the bill. FEMA has chosen to ignore flood control measures that have been in place, well maintained, and served without fail for over 80 years.

These assessments come with no consideration as to where water would flow if there were a flood, or common sense as to the reality of this levee system, whose management and quality is unparalleled anywhere else in the country.

In the wake of the most economically troubled times in our history, there seems to be little concern what the financial implications for families and small businesses would be if these new flood zones were instituted. The economic ripple-effect of these actions would be devastating and long-lasting to the whole country.

Over the past three years, I have worked tirelessly to counter FEMA's efforts. Language inserted in the Homeland Security and Energy and Water Appropriations bills was designed to give operators in the levee districts sufficient time for maintenance before any inspection would label the levee system "deficient." I have also cosponsored legislation introduced by Congressman Jerry Costello which would give levee districts time to do any maintenance that is necessary. The principles of this legislation have been included in Congresswoman Maxine Waters' bill the "Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act of 2010."

As the Chair of the Mississippi River Caucus, I have overseen several hearings regarding this problem, and have requested officials on both sides to come speak on the matter. Senator Pryor and several other members of Congress have met with FEMA Administrator Fugate and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works JoEllen Darcy half a dozen times, but a resolution continues to be stalled.

By requiring homes that stretch the length of the levee district to buy new flood insurance, FEMA is effectively taking millions of dollars out of our local and regional economies.

And what should we say to new businesses that would like to bring factories and new jobs to the region, but are dissuaded because of the cost of these liabilities and banks that are reluctant to lend to them?

The residents of this area have already paid for the best levee system in the country. They pay a graduated tax every year to the levee district based on home value for all property within its borders that is below the high-water mark of the 1927 Mississippi River flood. To then ask for anywhere from $700 to $2,500 annually in new premiums is nothing but a double tax.

These empty gestures by FEMA officials to feign concern while the people of the levee district suffer under the financial weight of the consequences is deplorable. Furthermore, it seems indicative of the fact that they are clearly more concerned with their bottom line than working for citizens they are here to protect.
The government should not be used against its own people, and certainly not in such an arbitrary way as to take advantage of those who choose to live along a secure river valley.

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