Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What Happened to Floodplain Management

The concept of floodplain management meaning the human adjustment to the natural processes of the meterology and hydrology of the flood plain is largely attributed to the Thesis of Dr. Gilbert F. White, PhD in Geography at the University of Chicago. [See http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/gfw ] Calling for other approaches rather than structural approaches to riverine flooding such as dams, levees, and channelization of rivers to improve the efficiency of drainage flows, Dr. White launched a lifetime effort that was largely dedicated to the mission of flood plain management although as his biography demonstrates had many other achievements including the Presidency of Swathmore College.
After proposed rulemaking in April 1975 and over a year of collecting comments and hold public hearings, the Federal Insurance Adminstration adopted a final rule reflecting Congressional mandates and program experience with the then relatively new federal flood insurance program. The first policy had been issued in June 1969 in Monroe County Florida.

Perhaps that policy being issued for a coastal structure was indicative that a program well designed for inland/riverine flooding would have to accomodate far different scientic and technical issues. That stated, it is a principle of the statutes governing the NFIP that no insurance should be provided for any type of flooding that is not identified using the best scientific and technical information. Thus, definition A-2 should be removed from the policy and in addition the original application for insurance returned to including the statement that any property insured in violation of a state or local flood plain management ordinance or restriction would be void ab initio. This restriction was removed from the policy application over my strong objection in the early 80's and never reinstated. It was one reason why I determined to cease being one of the principal lawyers for the NFIP which I had been since July 1, 1974. These small reforms could assist greatly in returning the program to compliance with Congressional statutory intent and abrogate failed efforts to treat the program as a de facto insurance program utilizing insurance principles. The federal government is the "underwriter" of the program and determines both what risks will be covered and the price for coverage of those risks. It is erroneous and pure fiction that the private business of insurance is in fact the underwriter of the program. The program as currently administered is filled with conflicts of interests by those who benefit from it financially including insureds, and program participants. The NFIP really needs tough oversight and that would include the principal of "follow the money."