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Fri August 9, 2013

Louisiana Lawmakers Push FEMA To Revamp Flood Maps

Louisiana delegation wants changes in FEMA flood maps they say could cause premiums to skyrocket.
US Senator Mary Landrieu and FEMA Associate Administrator David Miller prepare for an aerial tour of coastal Louisiana flood protection systems.
Credit Office of Senator Mary Landrieu

Louisiana public officials are launching a bipartisan battle to revamp proposed changes to the National Flood Insurance Program. The administrator evaluating the objections was taken on a helicopter tour of coastal regions possibly facing steep premium hikes.

David Miller is the associate administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency — and in charge of the flood insurance program.

Congress ordered him to restructure the system now used as an “insurer of last resort” — as it’s called because private companies won’t offer everyone flood coverage.

Miller said after his tour that there’s a need to align the science used for assessing flood risk with the FEMA maps that will be used to reset premiums.

“It’s not just about the ability of someone to pay the premium," he said. "It’s the whole financial impact in a community, and we’re discussing more and more of that as we go through.”  

Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu coordinated the visit, along with Republican colleagues Senator David Vitter and Congressman Steve Scalise of Jefferson.

The current federal flood maps don’t take local protection systems into account. That means some property owners will see premiums jump from a few hundred dollars to as much as $20,000 a year.

Landrieu says changes can make sure assessments are fair across the country.

“It will make insurance affordable," she said. "It will be sustainable and it will help 60 percent of the population in America that lives within 50 miles the coast live there — not vacation there, but live and work there.”  

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser had this warning: “This will destroy coastal Louisiana.”  

Miller says five Louisiana coastal parishes are part of a pilot program that could improve the accuracy of FEMA’s system of mapping flood risks.