Fair and Equitable National Flood Insurance
Our nation\'s flood insurance program desperately needs re-thinking. Although most people agree with that statement, many don\'t realize just how unfair the current program is. Our Government subsidizes coastal flood insurance in addition to flood insurance for property owners on lakes, river banks, streams and low lying areas all across the country. Yet, there are tens of thousands of coastal property owners (business and home owners) who are prohibited by law from purchasing National Flood Insurance at any price. We need sensible flood insurance policies now. We need to eliminate ALL tax payer flood insurance subsidies and open up the National Flood Insurance Program to ALL AMERICANS. There is a little known law, the Coastal Barrier Resources Act (COBRA), which is almost a quarter of a century old. Today this law is blocking tens of thousands of property owners from purchasing much needed National Flood Insurance. The Government created CBRS units, sometimes called COBRA zones, twenty four years ago in an attempt to deter development on designated coastal barriers and restricted the National Flood Insurance Program from issuing flood insurance for properties in these zones. Coastal barriers are extremely important and it is laudable that the federal government has created laws to try and protect them. But we now have decades of experience and research to guide our coastal protection efforts. Many studies have demonstrated that the existence of infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, is the single most important factor in whether or not the coastal barriers that can be developed actually experience development. Legislation should focus on this factor alone. Forcing property owners to go without insurance is CLEARLY NOT THE ANSWER TO COASTAL PROTECTION. It is a fact that the vast majority of COBRA zones are either not suitable for development or are made up of state and federal parks and military base property. Some are remote and relatively inaccessible by automobile. Most, though, are marshlands, wetlands, and other properties that would be very difficult to develop. For these reasons, almost all COBRA zones remain undeveloped today. There are anomalies, though. COBRA zones that are well above sea level, wide, high, dry, and home to some of America\'s most beautiful beaches. These COBRA zones have undergone so much development that they are virtually indistinguishable from other coastal property. According to a recent Government report, \"Congress may have been naive in assuming that the withdrawal of National Flood Insurance would prevent development\" of these highly desirable COBRA zones. The boundaries that distinguish COBRA zones from the rest of the coast were not based on ANY ASSESSMENT OF RISK OR VULNERABILITY. Properties that are inside COBRA zones are NOT more vulnerable to wave action, storm surges, flood waters, or wind damage than other coastal properties. The Government simply drew lines in the sand, so to speak. Almost two and a half decades later, two identical homes can stand side by side with an unmarked COBRA boundary between them. There is no difference in risk or vulnerability between the two houses. The only difference is one is eligible for National Flood Insurance and the other one is not. COBRA is a map driven law and because only imprecise mapping tools were available when COBRA was enacted, there has always been a lot of confusion about specific boundaries. It was recently estimated that it could take as long as another seventeen years before all COBRA maps are modernized. That would mean four decades AFTER the act was signed into law, homeowners could finally depend on precise mapping to tell them exactly where specific COBRA boundaries are. Moreover, Congress has had almost a quarter of a century to designate responsibility and to appropriate funding for outreach about COBRA. According to a 2003 report to Congress, \"No federal agency feels responsible for outreach on COBRA. As a direct result, many realtors, buyers, developers, and insurers are in the dark about the Act.\" It is conceivable that tens of thousands of individuals and families have purchased homes in COBRA zones without even realizing it. It is not uncommon for homeowners to be sold National Flood Insurance and later, often months after closing on their homes, be told they are not eligible and their insurance is going to be cancelled. The General Accounting Office (GAO) found that 42 of the 250 residences it sampled in five COBRA zones actually had ongoing National Flood Insurance policies because neither the homeowners nor their insurance agents realized that they were ineligible and nobody caught the mistake. That means an average of one out of every six homeowners in the COBRA system has National Flood Insurance and if these policy holders ever file a claim, coverage will be refused, even though the Government has never made it a priority to educate them or their insurance agents about the law. The economic stability of our coastal families, cities, and states depends greatly on fair and equitable insurance. There is nothing fair or equitable about the way the National Flood Insurance Program is implemented. Our elected officials in Washington should not be permitted to use tax payer money to subsidize flood insurance for some Americans while making it impossible for others to obtain it. We, the undersigned, call on Congress to immediately: 1. Change existing federal laws to allow ALL AMERICANS, including current COBRA property owners, to purchase actuarially sound National Flood Insurance; 2. Eliminate tax payer subsidies in the National Flood Insurance Program and ensure that all premiums are based on assessments of risk; 3. Ensure that COBRA property owners are eligible for any new programs implemented by Congress, such as the potential National Catastrophic Insurance Pool; 4. Base future laws and regulations intended to manage coastal development on evidence and scientific research. Following the evidence, focus efforts on restricting infrastructure development rather than unduly harming homeowners. Create incentives for state and local governments to manage coastal development intelligently. This petition will be sent to members of Congress as warranted before 11/01/2007.