, Salem, MA

October 1, 2013

Our view: Feds should heed calls for delays on flood plain changes

The Salem News

---- — Yes, it’s been a year since Congress initially passed a National Flood Insurance Reform Act, as Jonathan Phelps’ story noted in Saturday’s Salem News.

And yes, the administering Federal Emergency Management Agency has reached out to hold some informational meetings about redrawn flood plain maps designed to supposedly account for new flooding projections based on rising seas in the years and decades ahead.

One such session, geared toward Essex County coastal residents, was set for last night in Lynn, where FEMA staffers were also slated to be on hand to speak one-on-one with residents who might suddenly find they’re in a risky new flood plain even though they might live a half-mile or more from the sea.

But Congressman John Tierney and state officials, including House Speaker Robert DeLeo, are right to push for more time before the new flood plain maps, new insurance reforms and new rates for some properties take effect today. While urging FEMA to step up its efforts to inform homeowners and businesses of the reforms, the letter more importantly calls for adequate funding for the National Academy of Sciences to complete an affordability study, as mandated by the law.

The insurance reform measure is well-targeted. It should, over time, make the National Flood Insurance Program “more financially stable,” according to FEMA, and will rightfully phase out some artificially low rates and discounts that have historically been subsidized by the government.

But if it spikes insurance rates for coastal homes upward from $200 a month to $1,000, as local J Barrett Realtor Amy Wallick noted for one listed North Shore property, that could have chilling effects on local property values, home sales and the overall economies of the North Shore and similar communities elsewhere.

Redrawn risk maps and soaring insurance rates are surprises that neither homeowners nor businesses need.