Property owners on levees may have to pay new federally required insurance
By Elsa Maxey
Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert is hopeful that Congress may come up with a compromise that exempts some or all the levees from requiring mandatory flood insurance from property owners. There’s a bill under development and it’s causing area officials concern.
Judge Hebert recently addressed participants at the third annual Symposium on Flood Risk Reduction held at Fluor Daniel held on the first day of hurricane season in this area. He said, “I don’t have any bone to pick with the staff or the Corps of Army Engineers, the folks that we have worked with at the district and regional offices have always been extremely helpful, but we have some issues in Washington” coming to a head.
The legislation under development states that mandatory insurance is required for areas of residual risk. Residual risk is land protected by a level or other flood control protection device. As proposed, the FEMA will establish insurance rates for areas of residual risk and federal land use controls will be implemented in areas of residual risk, explained Judge Hebert. From the standpoint of Fort Bend County levees, he said there’s “a lot” wrong with a section of the proposed legislation. All of the levees in Fort Bend County are accredited and there is no federal funding that has been used to operate them. “They were built, paid for, and maintained by local taxpayer dollars.” He said that now taxpayers may be “subjected to a non-specific mandatory level of insurance on top of that,” which is of concern.
Currently area property owners served by Fort Bend County Levee Improvement District (LID) No. 2 pay taxes to the LID so that it can provide flood and storm water management services to areas of Fort Bend County accounting for over $4 billion of assets, homes and businesses in the City of Sugar Land.. If the new legislation is passed, these same taxpayers may be required to have mandatory flood insurance for their property along with others throughout the U.S., whose land is protected by a levee, dam or another flood control structure.
Taxes currently paid to the LID have been funding and maintaining measures for ongoing flood control and protection. In other areas with levees in different parts of the country, it has been maintained that operations are no where near the caliber of what is taking place in Fort Bend County.
In fact, Dr. Sandra Knight, FEMA Deputy Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administrator who participated at the symposium, complimented Fort Bend County for its flood management efforts. She said, “clearly, here in Fort Bend you have been smart about how you plan.” With somewhat of a tie to this area, as a sidebar she mentioned that her dad has a twin sister that lives in Missouri City.
Knight acknowledged that area officials are doing a good job on their own noting that levee districts across the country can learn from Fort Bend County specifically citing Fort Bend County’s LID No. 2.
Andre McDonald, President of the Fort Bend Flood Management Association and Chairman of the Fort Bend County Levee Improvement District No. 2 said, “we’re all sort of new to this, we haven’t had a lot of federal interaction until just recently,” noting that measures are “on the front burner and we are going to have more and more interaction with them.”
Judge Hebert, McDonald, and other local officials are continuing to work with legislators and issues relating to the new National Flood Insurance Program.
President of the Greater Fort Bend Economic Development Council Jeff Wiley, who kicked off the event as the first speaker said, “we could not have developed in the capacity at the level we have during the past 30 years” referring to the development of the area’s levee improvement districts. “This may be the best example of why Fort Bend County has succeeded over time, because we have good leadership in the community with the public and private sector pulling together to facilitate working for the protection of the citizens, build growth, and doing the right thing,” said Wiley.