SOLA POLS TAKE FLOOD (MAP) FIGHT TO WASHINGTON


Levees are expected to hold the Mighty Mississippi at bay this spring, but South Louisiana still has a flood fight on her hands. Instead of mother nature, it’s – as ever- the federal government that’s causing a need to rally the troops and fly-ins. A group of about 20 local leaders are in Washington, D.C., today to press Congress about the 2012 changes to FEMA flood maps that will exponentially increase flood insurance for some citizens. Along with the numbers, the delegation got a little muscle in the Capitol from U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu.

In 2012, Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act, which was intended to make the National Flood Insurance Program break even. With that financial solvency, however, came big changes to flood insurance rates. Landrieu estimates that rates will go up by 20-25 percent for most people who live in flood plains over the next five years.

Under the new law, the feds will no longer subsidize the flood insurance program. New flood maps issued by FEMA in March do not recognize areas that fall out of federal levee systems when calculating insurance rates. The changes coud affect as many as 500,000 homes and businesses in the state.

In areas like St. John the Baptist Parish and Plaquemines Parish, which were slammed by Hurricane Isaac and fall outside of the federal levee protection system, the increases will have a devastating affect, officials said.

“Sadly, the Biggert-Waters Act will cause more harm to our community than the numerous disasters that have struck our parish in recent years,” said Michel Claudet, Terrebonne Parish President.

The fly-in of local leaders from South Louisiana, organized by GNO, Inc., was set to meet with FEMA and National Flood Insurance Program brass, as well as members of Congress from the Louisiana delegation and the House finanical services committee.

“It is critical that we work with our national officials to produce maps and an insurance program that protect us, accurately reflect our risks and support mitigating the cost of those changes for the benefit of residents,” said New Orleans City Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who is on the trip along with District E Councilman James Gray.

To remedy the new costs, the delegation is suggesting developing new maps that more accurately reflect the flood risk of a certain area, or restoring a provision of the flood insurance program that allows properties to grandfather in past rates.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu is also making her latest push to stop the rates. The Biggert-Waters Act of 2012 became part of the federal Transportation Bill, which also resulted in the state’s Medicaid Mess, and contained the RESTORE Act that ordered the government to provide BP penalty money directly to the Gulf Coast for restoration in the wake of the Big Oozy. At that time, Landrieu and the entire Louisiana delegation voted for the Transportation Bill due to the presence of the RESTORE Act, according to a statement.

Since the bill was passed, however, she has been calling for revisions to the Biggert-Waters Act. On Tuesday, Landrieu proposed an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act which would halt the insurance rate increases until FEMA conducts a study measuring affordability of the rates.

“Families and businesses in Louisiana are already paying exorbitant rates for flood insurance and some could see those rates go up dramatically under these proposals,” Landrieu said in a statement. “My amendment will stop these increases until FEMA conducts an affordability study and Congress can act on the results.”

The bi-partisan WRDA, which calls for some reforms to the Army Corps of Engineers and upgrades to water infrastructure, is co-sponsored by Louisiana’s David Vitter and Califorina’s Barbara Boxer. The bill was introduced Tuesday, and is currently being debated by the Senate.

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