U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer earlier this week announced that he successfully fought to include an important provision in the Flood Insurance Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2011, which passed a key procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate.
Schumer’s provision would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to remake their existing flood maps that failed to use Nassau-specific data during major map changes put in place in late 2009. The areas include flood zones affected by the Jamaica Bay flood study, including Valley Stream, an area that saw thousands of homes added in 2009, and those parts of the Town of Hempstead affected by the 2009 remapping.
Schumer said that this will be a huge victory for scores of Long Island residents who have long questioned the validity of FEMA’s 2009 data.
“This will be an historic win for common sense and Long Islanders who were imprecisely thrown into flood maps using data from another county, leaving them with thousands of dollars in new – and unnecessary – bills,” Schumer said. “Residents who have been forced into new maps and have had to pay thousands in flood insurance premiums now can see some light at the end of the tunnel.
"FEMA will have to go back to the drawing board to create fair and accurate maps that reflect the best possible science and accurately access the flood risks Long Island homeowners face," he added. "We passed a huge milestone today, and I will make it a top priority to see that this much-needed legislation is signed into law as soon as possible.”
The deal struck by Schumer would require FEMA to remap Valley Stream and those parts of the Town of Hempstead that are impacted by the Jamaica Bay flood zone. FEMA would be required to produce new, preliminary maps within a year of the bill being signed. Upon presentation of those maps, localities on Long Island will then have an opportunity to challenge any new maps.
Currently, residents placed in flood maps due to last year’s remapping are paying a reduced flood insurance premium rate that expires in September of 2013, requiring residents to pay the full insurance rate through a four-year phase-in. If the local appeals go on so long as to require residents who ultimately get mapped out under the new map have to pay these increased rates, Schumer’s legislation will require they are reimbursed for the increase they were forced to pay.
Schumer has been highly critical of FEMA flood mapping techniques, pointing out that they used Suffolk data to plot out Nassau maps, and has been pushing the agency to go back to the drawing board to devise a flood map plan that reflects the on the ground realities of communities now being impacted by new flood elevation requirements.
The new modeling raised flood levels from approximately eight feet to 11 feet for thousands of homes, despite the fact that a USACE model for Nassau was never developed and there is no historical record of flooding at the increased elevations.