By Elsa Maxey
A bill in Washington approving and extending the national flood insurance program has local levee improvement district officials relieved. Fort Bend County Judge Bob Hebert and Fort Bend Flood Management Association representatives proactively joined others and told Congress of the “negative impact that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to flood insurance would have on well managed local programs.” Under proposed legislation, flood insurance would be required for those owning property next to a levee, dam or other flood control system, like many of those in this area. This was unacceptable to the Fort Bend officials because no consideration was being given to quality flood control management and protection already in place with local funding.
In a news release, President of the Fort Bend County Levee Improvement District No. 2 Board Andre McDonald said that Fort Bend was recently commended for its quality levees by the National Academy of Science Committee on Levees ranking them in the top one percent in the nation.
Given that and the congressional action, local levee improvement district property owners are said to have received a “gift” from Congress, according to the media communication since the Senate version for mandatory flood insurance was dropped. It can be argued, however, that a statement more apropos would be that Congress drafted and approved legislation that made sense, and it turned out to be bipartisan.
Congress created the flood insurance program in 1968 because few private insurers covered flood damage. That left the government in a role covering the cost of disasters. Reports indicate that the program was generally self-sustaining until Hurricane Katrina and other hurricanes struck in 2005. They also state that the program now owes the U.S. Treasury nearly $18 billion dollars.
Reforms in the extended flood insurance to be in effect for five years include phasing out subsidies for some properties, raising the cap on annual premium increases from 10 to 20 percent, minimum deductibles for flood claims, requiring the development of a plan for repaying the debt incurred from Hurricane Katrina, and the submission of a report to Congress on natural disaster insurance issues for legislative solutions.