WASHINGTON — The Trump administration's decision to slash all funding for the flood mapping and loss mitigation efforts in flood-prone communities is getting pushback from supporters of better flood management policies.
The budget cuts to mapping will be "devastating," Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, said Thursday during a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing. Mapping, he said, is the "cornerstone of everything else" the National Flood Insurance Program does — "the mitigation, the land use and even the insurance."
If the mapping stops, existing flood maps will become outdated and Berginnis warned it will degrade the Federal Emergency Management Agency's ability to assess flood risk and set flood insurance premiums.
"We still have of 2.3 million miles of unmapped streams, rivers and coastlines in the United States. We must do better and we need your help," Berginnis told the subcommittee members.
Other witnesses at the hearing also raised concerns. Evan Hecht, an executive with the Flood Insurance Agency, a company that offers private flood insurance, said that the private market uses independent mapping but also relies on Federal Emergency Management Agency maps.
Outside groups have also objected to the administration's plans.
“Cutting funds that protect Americans from increasingly severe and often fatal storms is a penny wise and pound foolish strategy that will only put lives, property and taxpayer dollars at risk," SmarterSafer, a national coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests, housing organizations and loss mitigation advocates, said in a statement Thursday.
The proposed spending cuts to FEMA, SmarterSafer said, "would undermine the nation’s ability to prepare for and recover from destructive natural disasters."
The Trump administration's budget comes as lawmakers are aiming to extend the flood insurance program before it expires in September.
During the hearing, Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., urged his colleagues to support his bill, the Private Flood Insurance Parity Act. The bill would encourage the development of a robust private flood insurance market that could offer homeowners more options in terms of pricing and coverage.
Passing it now would "help consumers and it would show to this Congress that private market not only has the capacity but the appetite to enter into this flood insurance market that is affordable and available to all consumers," Ross said.
Reps. Ed Royce, R-Calif., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., have also introduced a bill, the Repeatedly Flooded Communities Preparation Act.
"Repeatedly flooded properties make up 1% of those insured by NFIP but it represents 25% to 30% of all flood claims," Royce said. The bill "would proactively reduce flood risk instead of our current model of rebuilding these properties over and over again."
Royce noted that cities like Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., have had "pronounced success in decreasing flood risk."
His bill would encourage other cities to implement better stormwater management, promote voluntary buyouts of repetitively flooded properties and steer development away from risky areas, the congressman said.