Parish eyes CRS program to ease flood insurance rates for someSep 23rd, 2013 | By Candace Griffin | Category: news
The threat of higher flood insurance rates, caused by the impending implementation of the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012, has spurred the Parish into doing everything it can to try and mitigate the issue of higher flood insurance premiums. One small, but simple way to ease these rates is to join FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS) program.
What is CRS?
The CRS is a subset of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP’s job is to provide flood insurance minimum standards for floodplain management—this includes things such as levee systems and proper flood elevations for homes and businesses.
The purpose of CRS is to reward municipalities that do more than just comply with FEMA standards. The CRS provides them with an incentive—a percentage off of flood insurance premiums.
“CRS basically ratchets [NFIP requirements] up a notch,” said Mike Metcalf, Building Official Superintendent of the Plaquemines Permits Department, and former CRS Coordinator for the City of
Gretna. “It’s extra things that will further reduce repetitive loss and flooding.”
How CRS works
In order to receive the incentive that CRS offers, the Parish must apply to be in the program and appoint someone to be the CRS Coordinator—this person would oversee and document the efforts that the Parish is taking to comply with the program requirements.
There are 18 activities on CRS’s flood hazard mitigation list. Each of these activities, which range in difficulty from handing out flood insurance information to relocating flood prone buildings,
earns the Parish a certain amount of points. These points are then tabulated and are used to assign the Parish a class rating.
The classes range from one to 10, with one being the most efficient rating. The class that a community falls into determines the discount percentage they will receive—these range from five percent, for
the lowest level, up to 45 percent for the highest level.
“Most communities start in the 10 to eight class,” said Metcalf. “But of coarse the goal is to go lower than that.”
If Plaquemines begins this program they will also have the option of joining cooperative agreements with other parishes. This alliance would allow multiple parishes to share points with each other. For example, if St. Bernard were to complete an activity on the CRS list—and had an agreement with the Paris —Plaquemines could receive credit points for that activity as well.
FEMA describes Congress’ passage of Biggert-Waters in 2012, as the only way to keep the NFIP viable. As a result, rates will increase for many and grandfathering— recognizing structures built to FEMA standards at the time of construction to-code with newer standards— will be eliminated.
Repealing or drastically altering Biggerts- Waters has unified Louisiana elected officials from both parties to fight its full implementation. Whether or not they are successful spells out two different futures for Plaquemines Parish.
Premiums are increasing as much as 3,000 percent for Parish communities outside of the New Orleans Hurricane Protection System; Belle Chasse is the only Plaquemines community within the system.
Should Plaquemines get involved?
The answer is yes. Parish President Billy Nungesser and several council members have said the parish will pursue CRS. St. Bernard Parish started the entry process last month, making Plaquemines the only parish of the 10-parishes that comprise the New Orleans Metropolitan area, not utilizing this program.
But Parish Officials think now is the perfect time to start looking into this program. In order to join, the Parish President would need to contact FEMA Region VI, who
would then set up a Community Assistance Visit (CAV) that the Parish must pass in order to be in compliance with the CRS. This visit would determine the class level that the Parish would start at and what the potential benefits would be.
“I don’t really see how we could be negatively affected by entering into this program,” said Metcalf. “We already do a lot of the stuff required for CRS.”
Though entering into this program seems like a no-brainer, the Parish has neglected to do so considering that they have had their hands full for the past few years, said Metcalf. Since Katrina, hurricanes and the 2010 oil spill has literlly put Plaquemines in almost constant state of emergency.
Officials have been implementing the proper flood hazard mitigation efforts and trying to rebuild the Parish, but proper documentation— for CRS—has not been done.
“Every time we turn around and get our feet on the ground we get whacked again,” said Metcalf. “That’s really the only reason why this hasn’t already been implemented. We’re still trying to get some of the basic pieces together. However, I really think this is a good program and that now is the time for the Parish to consider it.”
“This is home for us,” said Kelli Walker, Senior Director of Governmental Affairs for the New Orleans Association of Realtors, and former Belle Chasse resident. “I want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help out the community. That’s why I’m urging the Parish to implement this program. They’re already doing what it takes to receive the five percent discount. All they need to do is provide the proper documentation to collect it.”
Metcalf also expressed that the Parish could easily enter into the program as a class eight or nine due to all of the activities on the CRS list that Plaquemines is already doing. He thinks that as long as the Parish continues to push for ultimate flood safety, the program will be extremely beneficial to policy holders.
“It’s all in the Parish commitment to following through on the requirements,” said Metcalf. “Anything that’s worth having, involves serious commitment. The carrot for everybody here is lower flood risk and lower insurance premiums.”