Monday, January 31, 2011

The Ultimate Reform of the NFIP-Termination?

Quoting from the NWF (National Wildlife Federation) letter of January 25, 2011 to the NFIP Deputy Adminstrator for Mitigation:

"FEMA has proposed four “straw man” proposals that largely focus on changes in rate structure.
These proposals are: (1) optimize the existing NFIP framework; (2) privatize all or part of the
NFIP; (3) move to community-based insurance policy options; and (4) switch to federal
assistance policy options. However, many critical measures are either not adequately included or
excluded from these “straw man” proposals that would achieve many of the needed reforms in
the NFIP without relying primarily on changes in rate structures. Many of these measures can be
implemented by FEMA now and will have immediate positive impacts in protecting floodplain
resources, safeguarding people and communities from floods, and saving tax dollars.
These comments will detail problems with the current NFIP and changes that are needed."

Both the NWF and the American Rivers organizations submitted lengthy and detailed comments and all are worthy of conideration by the program. My slant is somewhat different.

I believe given fiscal constraints and environmental developments including climate change dictate that the NFIP be terminated. Thus, the program should completely sunset by 2021. I would however also argue that this 40 year experiment in federal landuse regulation and indemnification of STATES and their LOCAL governments negligence could be continued after that date if these important changes in the NFIP were adopted in the next decade. They are designed to reverse the moral hazards and adverse selection of the program, restore insurance principles, minimize outlays, and give incentives to those who want the mapping to continue to provide disclosure of flood hazards to continue.

So these are my proposals to allow NFIP continuation beyond 2021:
1. No community can join the NFIP and participate to get any NFIP insurance for its citizens unless they entirety of the community is willing to mandate every structure within the 1% annual occurrence flood, A or V zone has bought flood insurance and maintains it is force. The community could itself sell and collect premiums for the NFIP if it so choose. Properties can be exempted by the community from purchase only on presentation of scientific or technical evidence including elevation without any fill that they are above the 1% annual occurrence flood. Outside of such a mapped participating community no flood insurance will be offered by the NFIP. If private entities wish to provide it and State Insurance regulatory agencies allow it then it can be provided.
2. All STATE and LOCAL structures must buy and retain flood insurance from the NFIP when located in the communities in number 1 above.
3. All coastal V zones on NFIP maps will contain the assumption that a one (3) meter sea-level rise this century will occur. This is a political compromise between the known for certain one (1) meter rise and the possible eleven (11) meter rise some have suggested. It is recognition by the Congress of a political compromise but necessary to protect construction of structures after 2021 that may be inundated by sea-level rise.
4. No federal NFIP insurance will be provided anywhere where a structural protection work is in place and may or may not fail by design exceedence or structural failure. This exposure will be left to the private insurance business and the STATES and their LOCAL governments.
5. Flood Mapping in all Coastal counties in the US participating in the CZM managed by NOAA will be mapped by NOAA with new NOAA maps being issued by 2021. Flood mapping in all inland/riverine flood areas will be conducted by the STATES and their LOCAL governments with a block grant from the federal government based on river miles and stream miles as currently depicted on base maps of the NFIP. The STATES will also support reestablishment of the non-statutory River Basin Commissions disestablished by the REAGAN Adminsitration.
6. All FEMA activities including flood mapping, disaster relief, reconstruction of water resource projects and other related activities will incorporate to the extent possible the Principles and Standards for Water Resource Projects, either as currently concieved or amended.
7. The administrative oversight by me of the omission of the Endangered Species Act in the 1975 proposed and 1976 FINAL Rulemaking will be immediated corrected by formal rulemaking.
8. 50% of all NFIP premium taxes paid to the STATES will go to STATE floodplain management programs, or alternative no premium tax will be given to the STATES on NFIP policies.
9. The existing so-called emergency program will be ended by FY 2016.
10. Any residential property in the US not now having flood insurance in force and not otherwise required to maintain NFIP insurance, and for which NO claim has ever been paid on the property will be given a free flood insurance policy and with that free policy a disclosure that no further federal disaster assistance or relief for that property will be provided as of the effective date of that policy. The disclosure will also indicate that after each paid claim an appropriate adjustment will be made in the premium for that property based on assessment of its risk. Property owners will be informed of increased costs of construction should the property be brought up to current FPM standars and given the option of purchasing such coverage.
11. All federal mapping of inland/riverine flooding would end and as of the end of FY 2021 STATES and their LOCAL governments or preferably a River Basin Commission technical staff would conduct that mapping.

Since I doubt that any of the above will be adopted NFIP insurance should in fact terminate with appropriate policy runoff at the end of FY 2021.