Need to be Aware of Flood Risk

by Matthew Glans on March 9, 2011

As flood risk maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are slowly being updated for flood zones across the country, towns and municipalities are up in arms over the higher rates some will be paying due to new areas being reclassified as high risk flood zones. Due to the decertification of levees along U.S. riverbanks, many towns once enjoying lower rates due to a certified levee system are now being charged higher rates now that their levee has been deemed less capable of holding back floodwaters.

In a new piece, reprinted below and published in the Battle Creek Enquirer, I discuss new legislation being considered in Congress that would allow homeowners to delay the purchase of flood insurance in newly reclassified flood zones. These laws were written in response to the complaints of towns protected by newly decertified levees. These towns argue that treating decertified levees as of they don’t exist ignores the effectiveness of existing levee systems, leading to excessive increases in flood insurance rates.

While some of these arguments are valid, in my letter I argue that such a delay would undermine mitigation efforts and discourage homeowners from preparing their homes, both physically and financially, for a major flood.

Need to be Aware of Flood Risk
By Matthew Glans
Originally published in the Battle Creek Enquirer March 5, 2011

Congressman Tim Walberg’s proposed legislation allowing homeowners to delay the purchase of flood insurance in newly reclassified flood zones due to levee decertification is a mistake (“Walberg bill delays flood insurance mandate” Feb 17).

Maintaining a strong levee system and keeping homeowners aware of their flood risk are two important links in the U.S. flood management strategy. Changes in FEMA’s flood maps are important guidelines that inform homeowners of the potential damage they face and encourage them to take steps to protect themselves through mitigation and flood insurance.

While the increased insurance rates that some homeowners will pay due to levee downgrades may burden local consumers in the short run, that is preferable to the alternative, where thousands of homes are unprepared for a major flood and left without adequate coverage should a levee fail.

The U.S. flood mitigation strategy in regards to levees should be twofold: Maintain and reinforce existing levees but don’t build any new ones.

Matthew Glans
The Heartland Institute

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