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May 4, 2010

 

Bill seeks flood insurance extension

Federal legislation would give homeowners in flood plain 5 years to purchase policy

By HOLDEN B. SLATTERY
Staff Reporter
hslattery@cortlandstandard.net

Proposed federal legislation would give homeowners included in the flood plains in recently updated flood maps five years to buy flood insurance.
The House Financial Services Committee unanimously passed a bill recently that would give homeowners in areas where flood maps are being updated until 2015 to purchase flood insurance.
Cortland County residents whose properties were included in the updated flood maps have received letters within the past few weeks directing them to buy flood insurance.
Rep. Dan Maffei (D-Dewitt), who serves on the House Financial Services Committee, co-sponsored the bill. He represents Onondaga County, where the Federal Emergency Management Agency is updating flood maps that are expected to take effect in November.
Abigail Gardner, a spokeswoman for Maffei, said she thinks the bill could go to the House of Representatives for a vote within the next few weeks and be passed quickly. But Senate approval could be more challenging, Gardner said.
“Anything that’s going to cost money, there’s been significant problems ... We’re cautious about any legislation getting through the Senate right now,” Gardner said.
Gardner said she does not know how much the bill would cost. Since flood insurance is run by the federal government, it would not receive the flood insurance payments it is expecting to receive until 2015, so revenue would be delayed, she said.
Cortland County’s updated flood maps took effect March 2. Gardner said the legislation would work retroactively and give Cortland home owners included in the updated Cortland County map more time to purchase flood insurance.
People who have already purchased flood insurance before the legislation is passed would not be reimbursed for their payments, but they could drop their flood insurance before they would be required to have it in 2015.
FEMA is operating at an $18 million deficit that was largely caused by the high costs of responding to the Louisiana area after Hurricane Katrina, Gardner said.
Gardner recommended that Cortland County residents included in the flood plain on the new maps proceed according to the law that is in effect now and find an agent that can sell them flood insurance.
The flood map revisions were part of a $1 billion, five-year initiative by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update the country’s flood maps.
In Cortland, FEMA added 52 properties to the flood plain. FEMA had proposed adding more than 400 properties to the high-risk flood plain on the city’s flood maps, but the number was reduced after an appeal.
Flood insurance is required if a resident is in the 100-year flood plain and has a mortgage. Anyone can buy flood insurance, though, whether they are in a flood plain or not.
Annual premiums range from $300 to $1,000.
FEMA statistics report that between 1978 and 2008, 119 claims were made in the city, paying out $547,152. City residents paid a total of $7.3 million in flood insurance premiums over the 30 year-period, an average of $243,642 annually.
Amanda Barber, manager of the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District, said that since residents began receiving letters a few weeks ago she has received complaints from Preble residents who live near Tully Lake.
The Soil and Water Conservation District has received the FEMA maps and believes that some elevated homes near Tully Lake should not have been included in the flood plain because their high elevation prevents flooding, Barber said.
She said the Soil and Water Conservation District plans to show FEMA topography maps as evidence that certain properties should be removed from the flood plain on the maps.
Barber said that if there are large groups of residents in other areas that feel they were included in the flood plain by mistake, the Soil and Water Conservation District can help them to appeal to FEMA.

 

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