Thursday, February 3, 2011

More on the NFIP

Representative Candice Miller has introduced a bill H.R. 435 to terminate the NFIP at the end of FY 2013. My reform comments published on this blog.

I did stumble on some old correspondence that still retains some validity and posting here for posterity or whomever.

"Thanks Bill,
There are still a number of gaps, as you point out. I'm going to send you our latest review of all national programs, which
we just released last week. We cover these issues and many more. Appreciate your keeping an eye on things and
keeping us in the loop.

At 09:18 AM 6/13/2007, wrote:

Larry! Now that you are through your conference (unfortunately again I did not attend) perhaps you could call sometime and give me blowback. Apparently the system has forgotten many of the political compromises and technical compromises I saw first hand during my 20 years in FEMA from 1979-1990 and before that at HUD from 1974-1979.

To throw out one example, the "Substantial Improvement" definition in the 1976 I was ordered by Bob Hunter to draft a deliberately ambiguous provision. Even the later revision did not fix this.

Another example, the language on the flood application that once read "Any property built or substantially improved in violation of local flood plain ordinances shall be void ab initio"!

Another example, deciding that flood adjusters should not have access to elevation certificates to determine whether the property is properly rated.

Another example, not to map so called local drainage where the flowage was 800 CFS or below.

Another example, not to make truly public mapping standards, including levee standards nor subject them to NAS or other peer review.

My overall impression of the AIR study is nice summary but what is really new to people like you and me. Much of the study documents the past and not very well. I am not sure that either the regs, the policy language, the mapping standards, the adjuster handbooks and guidance, the claims manuals and procedures, the rating system was really closely reviewed.

Enforcement was gutted in 1981 when many flood personnel in FEMA were unwillingly detailed to make up for shortfalls in the REP program budget and many never returned. There are OGC opinions precluding using the personnel funded from the fund and annual flood appropriation from being utilized elsewhere.

I understand the FEMA regions are still understaffed by almost 300 positions. Some of these must be mitigation.

It is important that you and I have an understanding. Katrina must be identified as a levee failure issue not an NFIP failure. The USACE has basically finally concluded that their post-katrina efforts will fail and have been wasted money and the next storm will prove it.

We need to really work hard to help common understanding so that either Republicans or DEMS that come in 2008 understand the long-term nature of the NFIP.

Where for example are the compliance videos, DVD's and training documents issued by FEMA for flood plain management. How much technical assistance is going on?

I passed on to George Bernstein the biography of Gilbert White and he reacted to the one sentence mentioning him in the book. The biographer quotes White as stating that Bernstein disappointed him in not making more use of the states. George told me that they would have but found virtually no states except Minnesota and Wisconsin with even slightly competent flood plain managers.

Look this whole thing is not insurance, but land use. Also highly multi-disciplinary. Katrina is going to end up compromising the USACOE for a long time and ending many careers. perhaps that whole system should be reviewed. The DEMS should restore the non-statutory River Basin Commissions.

Perhaps turning 65 in August makes me feel the need for more urgency in all that you and I do. Please please understand I think you may be the critical link in all this. I think highly of you and your organization but in reality you can and should do more. Good luck! And Good Hunting as they say.

By the way, although not perfect, you might find Charles Perrow's new book "The Next Catastrophe" of interest!"

Regards Bill

William R. Cumming
The Vacation Lane Group
P.O. Box 327
338 Smith Point Road
Reedville, VA 22539


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Association of State Floodplain Managers
2809 Fish Hatchery Road, Suite 204
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608-274-0123 / Fax 608-274-0696 /