Dealing with an encroaching Gulf of Mexico requires a lot of different approaches, and a new one from a wetlands-advocacy group has some potential.
America’s Wetland’s effort, outlined in a story on today’s front page, seeks to address the inevitable decline in property values that will occur after FEMA releases new flood-risk maps. It is assembling agencies and institutions that will oversee what it calls the Sea Level Rise Communities of Innovation program. Communities that take specific actions to adapt to the increased flood risk will be designated as such. The goal, group Director Val Marmillion says, is to help communities communicate the actions they take so businesses, investors and homeowners see they are “limiting vulnerability and telegraphing that they are open for business and here for the long term, thus avoiding the negative stigma of an at-risk community.”
This issue is serious. We know that because it has already happened.
You might remember the last time Congress tried to overhaul the nation’s flood-insurance program. It came in the form of 2012′s Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act. Congress scuttled the law, however, after some homeowners in flood-prone areas of Louisiana and elsewhere saw flood insurance costs rise from a few hundred dollars a year to $20,000 or more. Unaffordable insurance costs threatened to render homes worthless — too costly to insure against flooding for both the current owner and anyone who might buy the house later. The release of new flood-risk maps in some Louisiana parishes is what thrust those skyrocketing insurance costs into effect.
Terrebonne and Lafourche already know what could happen once the new maps are released. FEMA updated the maps in 2008, but the results were so devastating the two parishes appealed them. The maps showed thousands of homes and businesses are far more flood-prone than they used to be. Flood insurance costs would skyrocket, threatening individual homeowners and the entire local economy. Construction in much of the area would become prohibitively expensive because homes and businesses would have to be built many feet off the ground to comply with the rules FEMA sets for communities to receive flood-insurance coverage.
FEMA has yet to release the revised maps, though parish officials said they had been expected last summer.
The bottom line, however, is that the maps are coming. And anything America’s Wetland, the two parishes or anyone else can do to help blunt the skyrocketing flood-insurance costs that could result is at least worth a try.
— Editorials represent the opinion of this newspaper and not any single individual.