Flood Insurance Reform on the Docket for U.S. Action

Written by Lisa Hayden on . Posted in Learn

How often can a legislative proposal be good for taxpayers, good for government policy AND reduce risk to life, property and nature?

Such a triple win may be in the works as the U.S. Senate is expected to vote this week on a bill that would reform and extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), from which property owners in participating communities can buy insurance to protect against flood losses.

Congressional movement on the Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2011 is especially timely as Tropical Storm Debby (the fourth named storm of the season) churns slowly on Florida’s Gulf coast dropping heavy rains, and as a new study finds the rate of sea level rise on the highly developed East Coast of the U.S. is accelerating more quickly than other places. 

In addition to updating the accuracy of flood hazard maps, the reform proposal would take into account future impacts from increased storms and floods.

Without Congressional action, the NFIP, which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), would expire as of July 31, 2012, meaning the loss of an important service for property owners within flood zones, and a potential complication for real estate transactions. After years of discussion and work by many organizations on how to fix the program (now $18 billion in debt), the current proposal has already passed the House and enjoys bi-partisan support.

The Nature Conservancy supports legislation that would correct a flaw in the program by eliminating subsidized rates that have essentially paid homeowners to rebuild again and again in areas where floods from rivers and hurricanes on the coast are putting people and properties at risk. The bill will allow rates to be adjusted to reflect true risk and increase focus on flood mitigation, or in other words strategies that save money in the long run by preventing damages.

Sarah Murdock, The Nature Conservancy’s Acting Director of Climate Change Adaptation Policy, has been working with the Smarter Safer Coalition on how best to reform NFIP. She recently co-authored an opinion article in the Miami Herald with Chuck Chamness, president and CEO of National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, citing research that for every $1 spent on flood preparedness, $5 are saved when disaster strikes.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has also sent a letter to Senate leaders urging prompt action to include long-term reauthorization and reform that would bring solvency to the flood insurance program.

To learn more about using nature to help protect against storms, or to express your support for reforming flood insurance, visit the Conservancy’s Use Your Outside Voice page.

Lisa Hayden is a blogger and writer for The Nature Conservancy.

Photo by Flickr user poepoe374 (Storm surge crashing ashore in Texas from Hurricane Ike, 2008) Used under a Creative Commons license.

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