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The Vermilion River, swollen from heavy rain, floods a backyard on Acacia Drive Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Lafayette, La.

Old debates are in new bottles in Congress over the National Flood Insurance Program, a vital element in protecting Louisiana homeowners and business owners from catastrophic flooding.

Yet the old debates persist, and in a political environment of conflict, it’s difficult to find the path toward a permanent resolution of a problem that is old as Hurricane Betsy more than 50 years ago. Insurers fled the market, and the government had to step in after such heavy losses in the New Orleans area.

For years, though, NFIP was actually on good financial ground, but then hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 put it into the red.

Now, an abstract debate over whether private-sector insurers will engage in the high-risk lending in floodplains has real-world consequences for many in Louisiana as well as other coastal states.

Louisiana’s members of Congress and business groups, led by Greater New Orleans Inc., have been fighting the battle over NFIP renewal. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, was among the signers of a recent letter pointing out that there have been 12 short-term extensions of the NFIP law. The letter correctly called this a ridiculous situation.

We commend our delegation in Congress for keeping at it, including the House’s minority whip from Jefferson Parish, Steve Scalise, and his colleagues. Short-term extensions of the law are better than nothing, but the reality is that — even if some insurance can be obtained by larger commercial enterprises in private markets — a government program is clearly necessary in the foreseeable future.

But just because NFIP is a government program doesn’t mean that, in a business sense, it can be run on short-term extensions over and over again. Commerce requires more certainty than that, particularly in the real estate markets. It is truly ridiculous to allow legislative gridlock to turn an insurance program into a near-death experience for lenders and customers so frequently.

The goal of Congress should be a 10-year extension of NFIP authority, without too much tinkering with the details. Over that time, a more clear-eyed assessment of the potential for more private-sector insurance can be made. The increasing fluency of data-driven models of flooding can make maps more accurate and thus provide a better assessment of what homeowners’ costs of insurance should be.

Also, as illustrated by bitter debates in Ascension Parish over building codes and floodway protections, local governments in Louisiana and elsewhere have to make tough decisions over how to build in low-lying areas. It’s nonsense to assume that Congress can solve this problem alone, with local governments shirking their responsibilities to protect their own communities from flood risks.