Bipartisan legislation proposed Wednesday in Congress would compel communities to tackle cases of frequent flood-related loss.
The bill, dubbed the “Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act,” is sponsored by Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). It is expected to be rolled out in conjunction with the reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) next year to resolves issues with areas that constantly report flood losses.
“Repetitive flood loss continues to place communities and families at risk, while shortchanging the federal taxpayer and all those who pay flood insurance premiums,” said Blumenauer.
The heavy losses incurred following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 have put the NFIP deep in debt. According to ClimateWire
, properties that constantly flood represent about 1% of the total policies in the program, but add up to 25% to 30% of the claims. Such properties also represent about $12 billion of the NFIP’s $23 billion debt, Pew Charitable Trusts director Phyllis Cuttino said.
“These are properties that file multiple claims and that are built and rebuilt again and again,” Cuttino remarked. “They have kind of this outsize financial impact. I think of them as kind of the sickest patients in the program. They’re the very properties that we have to do something about.”
The legislation will require communities “with a significant number of repeatedly flooded properties” to map those properties, as well as public infrastructure that similarly suffer from constant flood damage, to determine specific areas that get flooded often. Through this, officials can determine which areas should be priorities for buyouts, drainage improvements or other flood mitigation efforts.
The bill also requires communities with constant flooding problems to consider land-use planning and other factors that might be exposing them to flooding. It also compels communities to implement plans to alleviate flood risks in especially problematic areas.
Communities, under the legislation, would be required to submit their mitigation plans and progress reports to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In turn, the agency would be required to create criteria to supervise the repeat-loss plans and determine appropriate penalties for communities that do not act on their findings.
“It’s said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” Rep. Royce said in a statement. “It’s time to stop the madness for policyholders and taxpayers who subsidize this cycle.”
Royce cited an instance wherein one NFIP-insured home valued at $69,000 was flooded in 34 times within 32 years, totaling $663,000 in claims.
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