Heated Discussion at Congressional Hearing on Baton Rouge Flooding

Louisiana flood response blasted by Congress after state, FEMA ‘fell on its face,’ lawmaker says.

Tension over Louisiana’s recovery from last year’s catastrophic floods became the focus of a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, with Republican congressmen repeatedly taking aim at Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The committee chairman from Utah asked Edwards if he was “clueless;” a representative from Georgia repeatedly asked Edwards why he didn’t call for an evacuation ahead of the floods; a North Carolina congressman demanded more information about the state’s process of finding an administrator to oversee upcoming housing recovery programs.

The hearing was billed as a deep-dive into the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the floods nearly eight months into the recovery process, but most of the heat came down on the state.

Lots of Activity re Pending Rise in Flood Ins. Rates

#1 – See this Wash Post article: Rise in government insurance rates to mirror rising waters, flood debt. Some excerpts from the article:

The government is slowly phasing out subsidized flood insurance for more than a million Americans with houses in flood zones who, in some cases, pay half the true commercial rate.

Some owners say they are angry because their houses near lakes, rivers, bays and oceans were much more affordable with cheap rates that will now increase by as much as 25 percent each year until the premiums equal the full risk of settling down on property mapped as a flood zone.

#2 – Check out the new report on flood insurance from the National Academy of Sciences:

The new report: Affordability of National Flood Insurance Program Premiums: Report 1 (2015)

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Abstract of the report:

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) within the Federal Emergency Management Agency faces dual challenges of maintaining affordable flood insurance premiums for property owners and ensuring that revenues from premiums and fees cover claims and program expenses over time. A new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, found that these objectives are not always compatible and may, at times, conflict with one another. The report discusses measures that could make insurance more affordable for all policy holders and provides a framework for policymakers to use in designing targeted assistance programs.

Although there are multiple ways to measure the cost burden of flood insurance on property owners and renters, the report found that there are no objective definitions of affordability. Where Congress or FEMA determine insurance premiums to be unaffordable, households paying those premiums might be made eligible for assistance through the NFIP. The report says that it will be up to policymakers to select which households will receive assistance, the form and amount of assistance provided, how it will be provided, who will pay for the assistance, and how an assistance program will be administered.

 

 

 

FEMA Will Review All Flood Claims From H. Sandy

From the NYT on March 13, FEMA to Review All H. Sandy Flood Claims.

As noted by reader, James Fossett:

* * * this story from the New York Times which reports on an on-going dispute where it’s been alleged that engineering reports of flood damage were doctored to minimize federal flood insurance payouts. While disputes over what’s flood damage and what’s not seem endemic to recovery programs—they crop up in FEMA’s Public Assistance program as well—the fact that they’re still going on more than two years after Sandy doesn’t speak well for our ability to manage the recovery process.

See comments below.

Update on March 16: As many as 147,000 claims have to be reviewed!

Review of Alberta Province’s Role in Recovery of Calgary

English: Alberta Province within Canada. Españ...

As it often the case, the people affected by a major disaster who are not happy with the response and/or recovery efforts of the public sector want to see an independent review. A major review occurred in Christchurch N.Z  after the 2011 earthquake there — see the NZ page of this blog for the full text of the Assessment report. And in the U.S. there were independent studies after Hurricane Katrina (there were several national level reports) and after  Superstorm Sandy — a major report on recovery strategy is due out in a couple of weeks.

Now, the liberals in Calgary and elsewhere in Canada are calling for an independent study of the role and responsibilities of Alberta province with regard to response and flood policies. See: Liberal Leader Calling for Federal Flood Review.

Another article appeared today re covering the costs of recovery. Seems to me the issue of who pays for what is a matter that should have been  decided long ago. Granted there will be special cases and exceptions for Calgary, but where was the plan for a major disaster and its aftermath? As the old saying goes, The aftermath of a disaster is not the time to exchange business cards.

Living in Harm’s Way – updates

Another addition to the collection of articles about why people make risky decisions. See:
Putting the Disaster in Natural Disasters: Why Many Choose to Live in Harm’s Way

It is human nature to sometimes resist and resent government regulations. Yet, if the appropriate flood mapping and floodplain management is not done by government, homeowners are left trying to make expensive plans and decisions in a void. At times citizens need public officials to determine risks and they want to be informed about them. Government is sometimes the right actor.

Some dramatic details in the aftermath of the major flood in Calgary, Alberta. Thanks to Pierre Picard for the citations.

  • An article about the realities that 5,000 homeowners in the High Water community face when they live in a risky area – the floodplain in Calgary. See this story in the Calgary Herald. 
  • Here is another article that provides additional details. I cannot even imagine what a home would look like after being underwater for weeks. Small wonder the owners would like a buyout option.

Alberta Canada also is having a problem with a lack of current flood maps.  See this article from the Edmonton Journal.   Thanks to Franklin MacDonald for sending me these articles. The article quotes the late Gilbert White, who said,”Floods are an act of God, but flood losses are largely an act of man.”

As it true in both the U.S. and Canada, homeowners get very frustrated when they cannot determine where to rebuild, owing to old or no flood maps. One more article re this topic in Alberta.

Some people are calling for a provincial flood insurance program. To date, private insurers are having a hard time, with their public image suffering signficant damage.

NOTE:  I have pointed out this problem to the Association of State Floodplain Managers, an organization that I think can be helpful to the Calgary folks as well as officials at the provincial and national level.

More Resources on Floods – from ASFPM

Forum 4 – 2013 – Gilbert F. White National Flood Policy Forum
Human Adjustments in Coasts – Adaptive Management in Response to Changing Hazards, Risks, and Ecosystems

The 4th triennial assembly of the ASFPM Foundation Gilbert F. White National Flood Policy Forum was held on February 19-20, 2013, at George Mason University’s Arlington VA Campus. This Forum will address “Human Adjustments in Coasts – Adaptive Management in Response to Changing Hazards, Risks, and Ecosystems”. One hundred invited experts – the brightest minds on flood policy, law, governance, engineering practice, biological sciences, transecting disciplines, sectors, landscapes, and US regions – spent a day and a half developing recommendations on approaches the nation can use to adjust human occupancies and management of the coasts. These suggestions should prove instructive to decision makers at all levels of government as we prepare the nation for increased coastal population, diminishing resources, and increased storms and risk. A background paper about the Forum topic is below, along with the Program Agenda.

Flood Mitigation Efforts in Other Countries

QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA

The U.S. is not the only country trying to think ahead and find ways to mitigate future flood damage.  Queensland has experienced many devastating floods in recent years and is working to anticipate and aboid future flood damamges. Here are two sources of more information about their present efforts:

News Clip :http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/councils-be-given-protection-stop-flood-developmen/1758559/

Government Report: http://www.premiers.qld.gov.au/publications/categories/reports/assets/gov-response-floods-commission-inquiry.pdf

One more article, citing additional reports that explain the Australian approach to flood management. Feb. 15.

UNITED KINGDOM

Article covers several decades of flood experience in the U.K.

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Thanks for Chris Jones for point out these resources to me.