Steep flood insurance cost hike fought
MORGAN CITY, La. -- Annual flood insurance premiums as high as $28,000 on a $200,000 home could become mandatory on houses built to code and two feet above existing flood plain elevations, if Congress fails to act to stop a proposed increase, according to St. Mary Parish President Paul Naquin.
Naquin was part of a Louisiana representation that went to Washington, D.C., this week to raise a cry of alarm regarding the effect of flood insurance premiums increases.
There were officials from 14 parishes, including eight parish presidents, Naquin said.
Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness Director Duval Arthur said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency maps that are being used to justify rate increases are “inadequate” and “not right at all.”
The Louisiana delegation was in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, and new flood maps and their impacts. Naquin said the group met with members of the Louisiana congressional delegation as well as other elected and agency officials.
Naquin said he and Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet, remain in Washington with a full schedule for meeting other people.
“I think senators and congressmen didn’t know what this bill really said,” Naquin said. “I think the nation will get behind us when they really know how this affects us.”
Troubling aspects of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 include the phasing out of grandfathering and the federal government subsidization of flood insurance rates.
Arthur said new FEMA flood maps fail to take into account much of the flood protection existing in Louisiana, especially St. Mary Parish.
“We are protected on the east end by levees and the west end is higher,” Arthur said “But it is more than just levees. We also have flood gates, new pumps and pumping station.” All those factors need to be considered when calculating actuarial rates he said.
Naquin said the Biggert-Waters Act “will adversely impact St. Mary Parish’s and Louisiana’s residents as it will penalize local jurisdictions, homeowners and businesses that have complied with the NFIP over the past 40 years.”
He said that a reasonable solution is needed “to continue to provide flood insurance at reasonable costs and must not eliminate the ‘grandfathering feature’ of the program.”
But even if grandfathering continues to be allowed, this will make most houses already built almost impossible to sell because of the application of new criteria for elevations, according to Naquin. This includes houses that were built according to codes and two feet above flood plain maps existing at the time of construction.
Claudet pointed out the severity of the effects on citizens. “Sadly, the Biggert-Waters Act will cause more harm to our community than the numerous disasters that have struck our parish in recent years,” he said.
Duval said that FEMA needs to have people from each of the parishes explaining what is going on in their local areas when it formulates flood plain maps and actuarial rates.
A news release from U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu pointed out that she warned on June 28 about the devastating effects of these aspects of the Biggert-Waters Act. “I am certain we will be back here within the year … fixing some provisions,” she predicted at that time.
The rate increases come as part of the flood insurance reauthorization that Congress passed last summer. Landrieu said in a news release that had the Biggert-Waters Act been brought for an up-or-down vote, she would have voted against it. Instead, it was part of the transportation bill, which also included the RESTORE Act.
On Tuesday, Landrieu filed an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act to stop premium rate increases for the insurance program coverage until FEMA conducts an affordability study and there is adequate time to act on the results. She is expected to speak on the Senate floor today regarding that amendment.
“We don’t have time to wait — we need to stop these rate increases now,” Landrieu said. “I agree that the National Flood Insurance Program needs to be self-sustaining, but this is not the right way.”