Senator Hoeven returns to Grafton to discuss flood insurance, protection
Flood Insurance Affordability Act could pass in Senate this week, then on to House
GRAFTON – Senator John Hoeven was in Grafton last Thursday to update the city council as well as other community and business leaders on the progress of a bill he introduced in the U.S. Senate that would delay scheduled increases in flood insurance premiums. Also included in the legislation is the Hoeven-Heitkamp Flood Safe Basements Act.
Hoeven and a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act in October. The legislation will prevent the Federal Emergency Management Agency from steeply increasing flood insurance rates before it studies the impact of raising rates on policyholders. The affordability study would take two years to complete.
“The bill would ensure that they (Congress) would have to go through that affordability study for two years and make sure they come up with a plan to adjust rates in a fair and affordable way,” Hoeven said. “Then second, when they report back to Congress at the end of two years, then they have another two years before they can implement those higher rates.”
Hoeven said he had commitments from senators on both sides of the aisle to make sure that the Senate will take up the bill and finish it and then send it on to Congress.
Hoeven also said he talked to people in the governor’s office about a flood protection project for the city. He acknowledged that Grafton already has approximately $10 million available for a flood diversion project.
Grafton is in the process of hiring a consultant to help finalize a project plan that would get the city out of the 100-year floodplain.
Hoeven told the crowd that once the consultant is hired it is his wish to come back to Grafton and meet with state and local officials including the State Water Commission to find out how much more money it would take to get the 100-year flood protection the city needs.
One item discussed during Hoeven’s visit in December was the possibility for the FDIC to not require banks to require mortgage holders to have flood insurance.
“I spoke directly to the head of the FDIC and without a legislation change we can’t get a waiver on that,” he said. “And that would probably be some tough legislation to pass.”
Hoeven said the key is to get the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act passed and start finding a permanent solution to get the City of Grafton out of the 100-year floodplain.
At this point there are still several options out there to arrive at permanent flood protection for the city. That could mean a full-blown diversion plan with a price tag of around $42 million or some other solution.
Another solution may be to beef up the city’s temporary dike system and have FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers certify it.
Senator Tom Campbell said that Grafton has a track record of protecting itself from flooding with its temporary dike system. He and others believe that temporary system could be made permanent.
“We’re going to kick all stones, obviously, and find the best project available,” Grafton Mayor Chris West said. “Our goal is to get us out of the floodplain and to protect the city.”
Hoeven said his intention is to meet personally with local state and federal officials including FEMA and the Corps to help find an affordable solution.
On Monday, by a vote of 86-13, the Senate agreed to advance the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act. A vote on Senate passage of the bill could still come sometime this week.