New FEMA flood maps causing controversy
The U.S. Senate approved a 60 day extension of the National Flood Insurance program last week. This week, the House is set to vote on the measure. With the new FEMA flood maps, many residents in Upstate New York are set to see their flood insurance rates skyrocket. Our Washington, D.C. bureau reporter Erin Billups sat down with federal officials and has more now on the controversial new maps.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As House representatives prepared to extend authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program this week by another 60 days, New York Congressman Tom Reed will once again cast a no vote.
"I wanted to send message enough is enough. You're putting real people in harm’s way in the sense that they're going to have to spend thousands of dollars potentially," Reed said.
Reed says the latest floodplain maps released by FEMA as part of the National Flood Insurance Program are unfair.
For example, under the new plans, about 11,000 homeowners in the Syracuse area and 8,400 in the Elmira area would see their rates rise, in part, Reed says, because existing levees weren't certified to meet FEMA standards.
"Washington, D.C. says we're not going to give any credit to the levees. We're gonna act as if they don't exist. To me that just doesn't make sense," said Reed.
FEMA says it is not their job to certify and while the Army Corps of Engineers built many of the levees, their dam and levee expert says certification falls on the shoulders of local governments.
"Once we finish design and construction we turn it over to them, they have this continuing operations and maintenance responsibility," said Eric Halpin, Army Corps of Engineers Special Assistant for Dam and Levee Safety.
"After Katrina, there was a lot of pointing of fingers back and forth between the agencies and they're just concerned as to who's going to be responsible if god forbid something bad happens," Reed said.
We sat down with the director of FEMA's Risk Analysis Division who says Katrina had little to do with the new maps, but rather it is advanced technology, new development and Mother Nature that increased the flood plains.
"Roads, bridges go in, come out, change shape. The landscape itself changes. As a result, rainfall will change its pattern and flood hazards themselves will change overtime," said Doug Bellomo, FEMA Risk Analysis Division Director.
With their constituents facing daunting flood insurance bills, New York lawmakers are hoping to reach some middle ground with FEMA.
Bellomo says FEMA is exploring other options.
"We're currently in the process of taking another look at how we identify flood hazards around levees that cannot be accredited on the maps," said Bellomo.
What that means for homeowners will have to wait and see.