Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad, Congressman Rick Berg and Governor Jack Dalrymple today announced that the new 5-year National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) reauthorization bill they worked to pass this summer is ensuring that homeowners in Bismarck, Mandan and other Missouri River communities who bought flood insurance to protect their property during last year's flooding are covered for damages.
Many residents prudently purchased flood insurance policies last year to protect their property when the Army Corps of Engineers announced on short notice in early May 2011 that they planned to increase releases from the Missouri River's main-stem dams. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had suggested that the required 30-day waiting period for flood insurance was closed after the Army Corps of Engineers began "higher than normal releases," making the event a "flood in progress."
The delegation and governor, however, argued that higher than normal releases by the Corps were routine over the decades and that the standard was not logical. In any case, they said, the river was not yet at flood stage when FEMA closed the window on coverage.
The congressional delegation worked this year to correct the situation legislatively, with the governor's support. They worked to include a provision in the flood insurance reauthorization bill that would provide an alternative effective date for residents in the Missouri River Basin who purchased or increased insurance coverage between May 1, 2011 and June 6, 2011, and whose property was not damaged for 30 days after the purchase date. As a result, FEMA last week implemented a more reasonable date for purchasing flood insurance for Missouri River Basin residents.
In addition to providing the alternative effective date to purchase flood insurance for Missouri River Basin residents, Senators Hoeven and Conrad and Congressman Berg also worked to modify the bill to spare millions of homeowners and businesses across the country from having to purchase flood insurance if they live in so-called "residual risk" areas already protected by sound, federally certified flood protection. Senator Hoeven was a member of the joint Senate-House conference committee, where he worked to ensure that the provision was included in the final bill.
Fargo, Williston, Grand Forks, Minot and Mandan -- 17 North Dakota communities in all -- would have been impacted by the new mandate included in the original version of the flood insurance reauthorization bill. The measure also contains a provision added by Hoeven that lifts restrictions on levee construction on some vulnerable properties in Fargo and Cass County.
After multiple extensions since 2008, in July Congress passed a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP, a bipartisan, 5-year flood insurance measure that fully pays for itself, increases the financial stability of the program and provides security for millions of Americans living in special flood hazard areas.
"A fair and effective federal flood insurance program is vital to residents of North Dakota, who live and work on some of the nation's most important river systems," the delegation and governor said. "We've worked to ensure that the program is responsive to North Dakotans and others living in areas of the country with significant flood risks."
The delegation and governor encouraged residents to review their policies with their insurance agents to see if they now qualify under the new dates.