TheWashington Post reports here on FEMA’s decision to rescind new flood maps which would have “drastically expanded the 100-year flood zone for downtown” DC thus “sparing the need for stricter insurance requirements and tougher building codes for private and government buildings.” DC had filed a suit against FEMA calling the new flood maps “arbitrary and capricious.” The District has agreed to spend $2.5 million on a flood control plan specifically to “strengthen its levee system at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW.”
This story points out, once again for those that missed it after Katrina, the complicated issue of flood protection in the US. And you would miss it indeed if one only listened to the wingnuts spouting the nonsense that the only problem is people living below sea level—Jeez just Move out of New Orleans. Are we to move out of DC or the many towns and cities along the Mississippi River which support critical commerce? Then there is worse with the odious simpleminded drivel fromRush Limbaugh that black people do not know how to deal with floods as white people do. There’s the problem–as though in effect telling the white bread basket of America that they can break out in a neener neener and racist cheer of “We’re better than You Are” will solve their insurance problems or make their towns and cities safer next time.
Meanwhile the realities of the complicated issue are hitting home for many thousands.50 communities in WI had opted out of the Federal Flood Insurance Program. One was Lake Delton. Angry residents theredidn’t even know of this, only having learned of it after an“Army Corp of Engineers embankment failed” thus draining their lake and taking thier their million dollar shoreline homes with it into the WI River. Lake Delton officials“had pulled out of FEMA’s flood-plain coverage” back in 2001 because they said “the agency’s elevation maps were grossly inaccurate.” Who knows those officials may have been correct given as WaPo points out in the above cited article that FEMA has a review program of “90,000 flood maps across the country.” But regardless what would have been the cost to be in compliance then? Or even in the future? How are cities much less small towns to find the funding to meet the standards? Are each to resort to suing the federal government as DC did to ensure a more favorable and less costly deal? Also keep in mind that“since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside.”
Of course that just begins to outline the problems with flood protection. Needed reform of the National Flood Insurance Program has sat on the table and stymied Congress for some years. AsInsurance Journal had pointed out last year, “Congress has shown little enthusiasm for taking the unpopular steps
that experts say are necessary to fix the nation’s main flood insurance
program.” They are now wrestling with it as the“National Flood Insurance Program expires this year and must be reauthorized by Congress.” The House and Senate passed bills but they differ andmust still be reconciled. The Senate bill which doesn’t include the House bill’s wind protection provisionallows the following and tell me there won’t be more than a few unhappy constituents:
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the government group that
runs the NFIP, to raise its rates up to 15% each year (up from 10%),
(ii) requires more at-risk homeowners (i.e., those protected by dams or
levees) to buy insurance, (iii) gradually ends subsidies for vacation
homes or properties that experience repeated losses, and (iv) requires
FEMA to adjust its rates according to risk as shown by flood insurance
Yes it’s complicated and there are difficult and costly choices to be made and I haven’t even discussed the state of our infrastructure. In Wisconsin alone, “during the recent flooding, five dams have failed, 18 have significant
damage and 25 are awaiting further inspection because they remain under
water. Hundreds of dams are still awaiting repairs from August’s floods.” Compound that with damage in other states and think of the cost. And asSenator Landrieu pointed out the other day we have spent less and less over the years on infrastructure:
So once again Oh the Water raises the problems we face. Serious problems in need of serious solutions for ALL of us. And it will be interesting to see what if anything occurs. As U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville who has fought for insurance reforms post Katrina said recently:
“I’ll find it very interesting to see, when I get back to Washington
this week, how many people in the Midwest are going to start paying
attention to what we’ve tried to bring forward” and how many will have
a better understanding of and empathy for what Louisiana and other
coastal states have been trying to achieve, Melancon said.
If only we will see we are all in this together. The so called “whining and moaning” from New Orleans of which Rush spoke is neither. It was instead a warning from those on the Gulf Coast. Rather than ignoring and/or chastising them we should finally recognize that they have had a larger message…
…to be heeded and finally dealt with before even more is lost.