(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator David Vitter today sent a letter to Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), urging him to rescind FEMA’s new preliminary flood maps issued for Jefferson, Orleans and St. Bernard parishes. FEMA released new flood maps earlier this month, which contradicts a commitment made to Vitter and a group of Louisiana parish presidents by David Miller, the Associate Administrator of the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, at a meeting on May 9th 2013, that they would finalize the process to determine an accurate way to credit all flood control features first.
“Earlier this year, FEMA caused panic in many parishes in south Louisiana by predicting future flood insurance rates based on incomplete and inaccurate maps, and now they are repeating that same irresponsible mistake with the release of these maps,” Vitter said. “This is a direct and total violation of FEMA's commitment to me at our meeting in May. It puts communities affected under the gun, and the result could be that they will have to bear the cost of FEMA’s mistakes for years to come.”
The text of Vitter’s letter is below.
July 10, 2013
The Honorable W. Craig Fugate
Federal Emergency Management Agency
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
500 C Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20472
Dear Administrator Fugate:
On May 9, 2013, I led a group of Louisiana parish presidents to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. We had a very important and, we thought, productive meeting with David Miller, Associate Administrator, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration, and his flood insurance team on the impact of Biggert-Waters on flood insurance rates.
A large part of our discussion was about FEMA's still-in-development "LAMP" process to ensure that non-accredited levees are properly recognized in new flood maps for whatever level of protection they offer, as well as related issues like giving proper credit for all other flood protection features such as pumps.
At this meeting, Mr. Miller specifically committed to us that no further preliminary maps would be issued until FEMA finalizes its LAMP process and determines an accurate way to credit all flood control features. He committed to this because doing otherwise would lead to publishing incomplete maps with inaccurate information, leading to misleading estimates about future flood insurance rates and possibly improper rates.
Completely contrary to this clear and straightforward commitment, FEMA published new preliminary flood maps for Jefferson, Orleans, and St. Bernard parishes on July 2. This is a direct and total violation of FEMA's commitment to me made at our May 9 meeting.
This is truly outrageous. Earlier this year, FEMA caused panic in many parishes in south Louisiana by predicting future flood insurance rates based on incomplete and inaccurate maps. FEMA has yet to finalize its procedures to accurately credit all flood control features. So you are repeating that same irresponsible mistake with the release of these maps. Even more serious is the fact that FEMA's action regarding these maps triggers a short 90-day appeals process, putting communities affected under the gun. The result could be that they will have to bear the cost of your mistakes for years to come.
Given that FEMA hasn't yet figured out how to give proper credit to all flood control features, it's not surprising that the new Louisiana maps FEMA just issued are riddled with inaccuracies. For example, on the new map for Jefferson Parish, FEMA both miscounted the number of pumps that exist and underestimated the pumping capacity of many of them. The maps also don’t reflect much credit at all for the non-federal levees. They make it crystal clear that FEMA still has no idea how to accurately credit pump stations and other flood control features.
Please keep your word. Please rescind these flawed preliminary maps immediately. Please focus your time and energy on how to get your mapping right, not on issuing flawed and costly maps.