Parish officials lobby Congress to change Biggert-WatersMay 13th, 2013 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: top story
Fresh from a trip to Washington D.C. with representatives from 13 other parishes, District 5 Councilman Anthony Buras offered a resolution asking Louisiana federal delegation to modify the Biggert-Waters Act in order to provide premium relief to residents and businesses. The resolution passed unanimously.
Buras, Councilchair Byron Marinovich and local insurance agent Bill Bubrig represented Plaquemines Parish on last week’s trip–which was coordinated by GNO Inc.— to lobby Congress to make changes to the Biggert-Waters Act. Buras and Marinovich both said that after talking with lawmakers and their staff who helped draft the legislation it was clear that most did not foresee the immense harm it would cause to coastal communities
“They had no clue— it was deer in the headlights,” said Buras. Marinovich echoed those thoughts and called the meeting with FEMA “a circus show.”
“In the two days I was in Washington D.C., I can only tell you that I once again I saw the dog chasing his tail,” Buras continued. “We met with every member of the congressional delegation, and depending on which party you talked to there was a different interpretation of what the act was supposed to do, what congress needed to do, and what FEMA could and couldn’t do.”
Bubrig presented members of the delegation with a testimonial of how the elimination of subsidies will skyrocket the premium for a home in Jesuit Bend that currently pays $633 annual for flood insurance and is built at a +3 ft elevation. Thanks to the new base flood
elevations, that home is now at a -6 ft elevation level and is looking at paying $28,554 annually for flood insurance.
“In Plaquemines alone, we have approximately 5,000 buildings outside of 100-year protection,” Bubrig wrote. “These 5,000 building were built at or above the NFIP requirement when constructed. Without grandfathering these properties/homes will become too expensive to insure and impossible to sell.”
Buras said that all members of the Louisiana Delegation committed to doing something, but they weren’t sure exactly what they could do or how long it would take to get anything done.
“I really am optimistic that something is going to get done,” said Buras. Bubrig also said that after meeting with the Louisiana delegation and their staffers, he is “cautiously
optimistic” that something will be done.
Their optimism may be justified since Senator Mary Landrieu filed an amendment to the Biggert-Waters Act last Tuesday, that if approved by Congress, will stop flood insurance rate increases until FEMA completes an affordability study. The amendment is up
for vote this week.
But in the long run, delaying the premium increases is a temporary fix– it does not change the law or how FEMA is determining the Base Flood Elevations that are used to set flood insurance premiums. The overall goal for Plaquemines Parish is to get FEMA to consider the Coastal Master Plan and on-going levee improvements– for which several millions of dollars have been allocated.
The parish is working to appeal the maps, and will continue to actively lobby Congress, but the message was clear at the May 9 PPC meeting– every Louisiana representative needs to hear from the residents whose lives are being turned upside down by their actions.
“We didn’t get represented…so we need residents who are affected by this to call, write, contact their representatives to show their displeasure with the way our delegation acted on this,” said Buras.
Last week’s lobbying group was unable to meet with Senator Maxine Waters, D-CA, directly due to scheduling conflicts, but did manage to sit down with her staff. Last Friday, Waters released a statement addressing the legislation and pledging to join the fight to undo its damages.
“As one of the primary authors of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and a longtime advocate for the people of southern Louisiana, I can state that it was never the intent of Congress to impose the types of punitive and unaffordable flood insurance premiums that residents of southern Louisiana are currently facing,” Waters wrote. “I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress and with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to solve this problem.”