With its chairman describing new National Flood Insurance Program rules as leading to a “trail of tears” for south Louisiana, the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority passed a resolution Wednesday opposing the rules.
The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act was passed by Congress in 2012 and would involve steep increases in premiums for some areas of the state. According to the resolution, “flood insurance premiums for Louisiana residents (based on the act) can change from $2,235 per year (current) to as high as $25,000 per year for the same $200,000 home labeled as 10 feet below base flood elevation.”
Authority Chairman Garret Graves said it’s not the fault of any property owner that some areas are becoming more flood prone as the Gulf of Mexico gets closer to communities because of coastal land loss. That land loss, he said, is tied to Mississippi River levees which gave navigation benefits to the nation.
“This is literally just redrawing the map. This is a trail of tears,” Graves said. “If this happens, we won’t be able to live in south Louisiana any more.”
The increased premiums, authority members said, could make it impossible for homeowners who have been enrolled in the program for years to continue to have flood insurance. That lack of flood insurance could make it difficult, or impossible, to buy or sell homes in some areas, authority members said.
“This will throw tremendous cold water on real estate transactions,” said Windell Curole, general manager of the South Lafourche Levee District. “With this law, these people will have to walk away from their house or let the bank repossess it.”
The proposed flood maps are still under federal review but more parts of the state’s coast are becoming high-risk velocity zones, or V-zones, where insurance rates increase more. The program also is going to start phasing out “grandfathered” rates next year.
Of the nearly 500,000 people in Louisiana in the NFIP, the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated that more than 400,000 would not face immediate impacts, although they are subject to annual rate increases. Another 50,000 properties will maintain the present rates until they are sold.
Authority members said there should be fairer and better ways than what is being proposed to make the NFIP more self sustainable and any state or community within flood zones, or ones that might be protected with levees that are federally certified, will be impacted.
Jerome Zeringue, executive director of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said Louisiana is working with other states and communities for a stronger voice of opposition. The resolution also asks that FEMA revise maps to consider local levees so the risk of flooding isn’t overstated.