Jun 07 2012
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo
Congress passed and President Barack Obama has signed an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, but it's only through July and some lawmakers like Sens. Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran aren't fully satisfied that its provisions make the best law for Mississippians.
Extension provides the possibility of coverage for part of the 2012 hurricane season, but falls short of the essential extended coverage.
The program, which is provided only by the federal government, has 5.6 million policyholders nationwide, including thousands in Mississippi floodplains.
NFIP provides coverage protection against the property losses that result from flooding, the most common natural disaster in the United States. Without flood insurance, many residential and commercial real estate transactions in federally designated floodplains nationwide will stop, because federally backed mortgage loans cannot be secured without the protection. The National Association of Realtors has said nearly 40,000 mortgage closings per month would be jeopardized.
Cochran is one in a strong cadre of bipartisan supporters of the program, but he has expressed concern about provisions in the act dealing with levee protection, an important issue in a state like Mississippi with multiple river floodplains protected by levee systems.
Cochran, in a statement released by his office, said Wicker has "done an outstanding job in pushing for language that will help delineate between wind and water damage in hurricane scenarios along the Gulf Coast," adding, "With that said, the bill the Senate will consider still contains provisions that are very troubling for states like Mississippi that have extensive investments in a network of strong levees. It is absolutely critical that we modify or strike these provisions before final passage, and I am optimistic that we can do that."
Cochran and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor have raised concerns about Section 107 of the committee-approved NFIP reauthorization, which would designate as "areas of special flood hazard," land protected by properly constructed and maintained flood control structures.
The concern is a carryover from earlier objections about the same issue. Last November, Cochran, Pryor and others wrote the Senate Banking Committee, "Areas protected by properly constructed and maintained levees, dams and other flood control infrastructure should not be arbitrarily declared areas of special flood hazard. Under this provision, an area protected by a healthy levee that has a 1 in 500 chance of flooding in a given year based on actuarial analysis would be required by the federal government to carry flood insurance and adopt land-use restrictions ..."
Cochran's concern is that federal regulations will become the equivalent of an expensive, flawed zoning law.
We share his concern.