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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 1309, Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. WALDEN. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I appreciate the work of Mr. Sessions and the very powerful Rules Committee in bringing forward this rule, which I support. And I appreciate the work of our colleague from Illinois (Mrs. Biggert) for introducing this legislation and working with me on some issues that are critically important to the people of eastern and southern Oregon, and, frankly, all across Oregon, especially in places like Milton-Freewater, Oregon.

In Milton-Freewater, citizens are paying hundreds of dollars more in flood insurance because FEMA came in and did a remap process, and it has put a real burden on the people of this community. The community has already set in motion a plan to fix the levees that FEMA says have fallen out of certification, to bring them back into compliance.

This bill could provide relief from the mandatory insurance purchase requirements--remember, you've got government sort of mandatory insurance hanging over these folks--while the community works to improve the levees. It also will force FEMA to factor in the actual protection afforded by existing levees regardless of their accreditation status.

Part of the problem we have out there in Milton-Freewater is you have a couple of agencies fighting over whether there should be brush allowed to grow on the levees. One agency says, oh, we need that for shade in the river, and the other says, no, that actually degrades the integrity of the levee. So we have Federal agencies fighting, and the people in Milton-Freewater get stuck with the bill.

These commonsense steps and others in the bill will provide the relief Milton-Freewater is in desperate need of. These changes will, according to one county commissioner from the area, benefit more than 2,000 people in the community.

Now down in southern Oregon, citizens in Jackson County have been adversely impacted by the recently redrawn FEMA flood maps that, as FEMA has admitted, used inferior mapping methods for some portions. Now the new maps force many homeowners into 100- and 500-year floodplains for the first time. Now that means they have to buy costly insurance when they may not even need it. It's not cheap either. While it runs about $400 a year for the 2-year discount period, premiums skyrocket after that to as much as $25,000 annually, I'm told. Now, this bill would waive the burdensome mandatory insurance purchase requirements while the new maps are being appealed by homeowners. Homeowners shouldn't get stuck with this bill, this extraordinary cost, when it may, in fact, be a mapping error that even the agency admits they used inferior methods on.

This bill also improves the mapping process by reinstating the Technical Mapping Advisory Council, which will be better suited to take into account local factors during remapping, including natural topography and decertified levees that had not previously been considered.

This bill works to bring the National Flood Insurance Program out of the red while allowing communities more local input on their flood plans and time to adjust should they be designated as a high-risk area.

So I urge my colleagues both to approve the rule and the underlying bill so that we may reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program in a commonsense, fiscally responsible and bipartisan way.


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