FEMA Administrator Agrees to Heinrich’s Request to End “Without Levees” Policy in Modernizing Flood Maps

Proactive Measure Will Help Prevent Unnecessary Homeowner’s Insurance Rate Increase

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – March 16, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich (NM-1) fought to prevent potential increases in New Mexico homeowner’s insurance payments—and he won. There has been growing concern from local flood control management agencies and community members over a Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) policy that treats uncertified flood control structures as if they don’t exist, which could force homeowners and small businesses to buy costly and in some cases unnecessary flood protection insurance.

On February 18, 2011, Rep. Heinrich along with 48 other members of U.S. House of Representatives urged FEMA to use more precise methods of evaluating unaccredited flood control structures during the agency’s remapping process for new Flood Insurance Rate Maps.  Read the letter.

Levee certifications, including certification for just over 27 miles of engineered levees in Albuquerque, have historically been completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for local sponsors who operate and maintain the levee systems.  Following Hurricane Katrina, the USACE amended their requirements for certification, creating concern that portions of Albuquerque adjacent to the Rio Grande would soon not qualify. Without certification by the USACE or a local sponsor, the levees in Albuquerque could be placed onto FEMA’s list for flood plain remapping.  Under current procedures, this remapping would use a “without levee” standard that evaluates the flood risk using the assumption that no levee or protective measures exist.

In correspondence sent to Rep. Heinrich on March 9, 2011, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate announced that he has directed FEMA staff to end the use of the “without levee” standard, agreeing that his agency has the technical ability to affordably and efficiently produce more accurate flood maps.

Fugate also indicated that FEMA “will temporarily withhold issuing final determinations for those communities whose levees do not meet accreditation requirements and would clearly benefit from this new approach.” Read the letter.

Rep. Heinrich praised FEMA’s decision:

“FEMA made the right call on this one,” said Rep. Heinrich. “Flood insurance is expensive, especially for families and small businesses on a tight budget. As new flood maps are drawn, FEMA has made it clear that property owners will receive fair treatment in determining their flood zone status. I will continue working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to ensure that residents and businesses in central New Mexico fully understand their flood risk and are not forced to pay unreasonably high insurance premiums.”

Craig Fugate FEMA Letter

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