Durbin: Metro East Flood Maps Not Scheduled to Take Effect Until December 2011

Delay allows additional time for legislative action and understanding of risk

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will delay the implementation of the new flood maps for the St. Louis region until December 2011. Durbin also stressed the importance of the delay in allowing more time for property owners to understand their flood risk and for legislative action to prevent residents and businesses from facing dramatic increases in flood insurance rates.


“Delaying the implementation of FEMA’s flood maps gives residents and businesses more time to understand their flood risk. It also gives Congress more time to find a way to protect property owners in the event of a major flood and not burden them with unreasonably high flood insurance premiums,”said Durbin.


“I encourage Metro East property owners in newly mapped areas to take advantage of deeply discounted flood insurance – which could mean a savings of over a thousand dollars a year – that is available now through December 2013. In the meantime, I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress and FEMA to find a permanent solution.”


In May, Durbin announced that through his efforts the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to offer property owners in Metro East deeply discounted insurance through the agency’s Preferred Risk Policy for two years following the effective date of a map change for owners of buildings newly shown in Special Flood Hazard Areas. The two-year discounted rate would mean that the owner of a house worth $250,000 would pay about $300 per year instead of $1,500. This administrative change – implemented without legislation – allows more time for repairing the levees while ensuring that residents and businesses are financially protected in the event of a flood.


Today, FEMA also made available a process to FEMA’s findings regarding the preliminary flood maps. FEMA recently announced plans to make available an independent Scientific Review Panel to review and resolve conflicting technical and scientific data generated by FEMA and local communities. This scientific panel is composed of five experts (three of which can be chosen by the local community) that will review local objections to the flood maps and make recommendation to the FEMA Administrator for revisions to the preliminary maps.


The panel was based, in part, on an amendment offered by Sens. Pryor (D-AK) and Cochran (R-MS) and co-sponsored by Durbin that would establish an arbitration panel process to resolve disputes over new FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs). The new maps – originally scheduled to take effect sometime this year – are part of a nationwide effort to remap flood plains across the nation in order to identify and reduce the financial and physical impact of floods.


Last week, Durbin asked the Senate Banking Committee to include language in the Senate bill to reauthorize the flood insurance program that would delay the mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement for five years in communities with newly designated flood maps across the country. This language – recently passed by the House of Representatives as part of the Flood Insurance Reform Priorities Act of 2010 (H.R.5114) – includes a provision that requires communities to provide flood risk and crisis information to residents during this delay.