Sept. 14--Flood insurance is going to increase -- probably by quite a bit for some, warn experts who are trying to do something about it.
With federal remapping of floodplains in the works for some counties, professionals working in the field met in Sacramento last week to discuss its effects on insurance rates and the agricultural industry.
Mike Inamine, executive director of the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency, moderated a panel discussion at the Floodplain Management Association 2016 Conference. The discussion revolved around the impact of FEMA's remapping -- Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) -- for areas of high-flood risk on insurance rates for structures and businesses operating in floodplains in the Central Valley.
FIRMs are used to administer the National Flood Insurance Program throughout counties.
"The NFIP will result in flood insurance rates going up dramatically; it's quite an increase in flood insurance premiums," Inamine said.
FEMA originally mapped all counties throughout the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2001, the agency began to update FIRMs to show if a region's levees met requirements for 100-year certification criteria. If an area cannot be certified, it is classified as a special flood hazard area and subject to development regulations.
Denise Carter, a Colusa County supervisor, was a panelist in the discussion. She said people with federally-backed mortgages living or operating in deep floodplains will be hit the hardest by the hike in insurance rates if an area is designated as high-risk.
"As a task force, we worked on the possibility of having private insurance come in to have more affordable insurance options," Carter said.
She said while some residents living in Sutter County have already felt the effects of remapping, FEMA is going through the process in Colusa County.
The panel also discussed FEMA's building regulations for rural areas in a deep floodplain.
Inamine said some of the current regulations have an adverse impact on farmers and the agricultural industry.
"If you are in a floodplain, you are required to floodproof structures so water can pass through it," Inamine said. "There are many examples where a building has to have holes in it. That's fine, except that some of those buildings hold food and crops."
In terms of floodplain management, farming is regarded as a wise use of a flood zone because it prevents hazardous development -- housing or urban development -- from occurring in deep floodplains behind levees.
Carter said panelists discussed the possibility of amending certain requirements for floodproofing that accommodate structures that support an agriculture industry.
Inamine said FEMA has shown interest in supporting rural area economies and wants to work with farmers on specific methods of improving regulations on agriculture structures while also mitigating costs.
Carter said the discussion was an opportunity for the task force to hear different perspectives on ways to address the issue.
"It provided the possibility to maybe tweak some things with FEMA's regulations," Carter said. "They have all these technical bulletins, which provide guidance on what you can do, and there is a definition of agriculture structures. The discussion was whether or not we should change that definition of what an agriculture structure is."
Inamine said the five panelists provided different perspectives on the complex issue. The other panelists were Gregor Blackburn, Ceil Strauss, Maria Lorenzo-Lee and James Gallagher.
"It highlighted the issue of how important this is moving forward in the Sacramento Valley," Inamine said. "It was essentially how do we do the right thing in a floodplain, in terms of insurance, and still keep it affordable."
Carter said a task force she works on is taking some of the topics discussed at the panel and writing up a report that will be sent to FEMA with recommendations on how to accommodate agriculture businesses looking to develop or build in deep floodplains.
"It's not going to be easy, but we are trying to find some little things we can do that will have a big impact on being able to continue farming in floodplains," Carter said.
(c)2016 the Colusa County Sun-Herald (Colusa, Calif.)
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