OUR OPINION: Senatorial coalition seeks fix of flood program

A coalition of senators from across the U.S. has moved quickly to resolve serious financial and affordability issues in the National Flood Insurance Program, the chief protection for private property built in flood plains everywhere.

Flood risks have been clearly identified by official surveying of private property and the geographic area within municipal and county boundaries – and water management district flood plains.

A reform act passed in 2012 was intended to restore the program to sound financial footing with ratepayer increases, but the unintended consequence had the effect of causing rates to skyrocket.

U.S. senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker are among 24 in both parties who have signed a letter requesting a delay in full implementation of the reforms until a fix can be found for the exploding coverage costs.

Significant portions of flood damage every year is along coastlines hit by storms, but large portions of the program also apply to inland flood plain areas like the Tombigbee River Valley Water Management District, whose main flood plain and tributaries affects thousands of acres and millions of dollars in insured properties in Northeast Mississippi.

Cochran relates this constituent situation:

“A constituent from Ocean Springs contacted my office to give her perspective on the legislation. She wrote: ‘Built in 1986, (my house) survived all hurricanes including Katrina. I used my retirement savings to buy the house. Before closing, flood insurance was grandfather at $245 per year. After closing, the rate skyrocketed to $18,450. You can understand my shock.’”

Under the new bill, Cochran said, the Federal Emergency Management Agency must provide assurances to Congress that it is using sound mapping methods to make flood insurance rate determinations:

“A study by the National Academies of Science produced in March of this year has called into question some of the engineering practices FEMA uses to determine rates. … We need to be absolutely sure our practices and procedures are as sound as possible.

“Second, FEMA must complete the affordability study mandated by the same legislation that is driving insurance rates up. … It is important that we understand the implications of these rates.”

Large portions of Northeast Mississippi are potentially affected by the flawed reforms; the senators and others seeking new legislation need the support of their constituents with facts about adverse effects of new rates.