February 19, 2018
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Flood mapping protection awaiting Obama signature|

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — An amendment that would mandate and make clear that Maine communities are eligible for government reimbursement for costs of successfully appealing inaccurate flood maps will become law with President Obama’s signature.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the amendment, which was written by U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and was approved as part of flood insurance relief legislation, according to a King press release.

“This is a huge victory for Maine’s coastal communities,” Sen. King said in the press release. “Not only does my amendment incentivize FEMA to work closely with communities to get the science right from the start, but it also reassures communities that they won’t have to bear the costly financial burden of a successful appeal if FEMA gets it wrong. I’m very pleased Congress agreed with me and helped right this wrong for cash-strapped communities around the country.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is responsible for drawing maps that determine the level of risk in flood-prone areas along the coast, and which also ultimately dictate the premiums for flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Under current law, when FEMA locates a home incorrectly on a flood map, a homeowner can appeal the error in order to avoid paying the associated higher premium, and if successful, may then be eligible for reimbursement by the government for the costs incurred during the appeals process.

Oftentimes, however, entire communities or municipalities appeal a mapping process or result but, it is unclear under current law whether they would be eligible for reimbursement. They are then left to pay for the costs themselves, which can be tens of thousands of dollars. For example, in 2009, the cities of Portland and South Portland, among several other municipalities, successfully challenged FEMA flood-map designations, but because of current law, had to pay for the costs of the appeals process, according to the press statement.

The amendmentwill alter law to mandate that communities are also eligible for reimbursement for the costs of successfully appealing bad mapping procedures or results. To date, neither individuals nor communities have been reimbursed by the government following a successful challenge.

In addition to his amendment, King also urged FEMA Administrator Fugate in a January letter to adopt a thorough and transparent approach to the upcoming appeal process for recently issued flood maps in southern Maine, and to welcome data provided by municipalities in order to establish maps that accurately reflect flood risk.