Senators push to strengthen protection for repeatedly flooded communities

If approved, a new bill in Congress could lead to some changes for flood-prone properties here in the Lowcountry.

South Carolina’s Tim Scott is a co-sponsor of the “Repeatedly flooded communities preparation act.”

The senator says the bill would ease the strain on the national flood insurance program and help communities prepare for disasters before they strike.

“I’ll never forget going door-to-door in Sumter, Horry County and other areas of South Carolina after the 2015 floods and seeing firsthand the real-life devastation faced by so many of our families,” Scott said. “As someone who grew up on the coast, I know how critical the NFIP is to families throughout South Carolina. Our legislation would help tackle the NFIP’s debt problems while better preparing communities to weather disasters before they strike, cutting costs, and freeing up resources to be used on needed relief efforts.”

“There is no doubt that we have increased flooding in our coastal cities,” Brian Schatz (D-HI) said. “Our bill builds on the momentum growing in states and cities to fight the new reality of accelerating sea level rise. We need to do all we can to prepare our communities and our economy to weather the storm.”

As it stands, there are no requirements for municipalities or counties with a significant number of repetitive loss properties to change their land use management plans or public infrastructure investments to minimize flood risk. This is a growing problem for both the residents of these communities and the financial soundness of the NFIP.

Specifically, the bill will:

• Require communities with over 50 repetitive loss properties, defined as properties that have flooded at least twice in a 10-year time period with claims of $1000 or more, to review and analyze data on properties and infrastructure that flood repeatedly to determine the specific areas that should be priorities for voluntary buyouts, drainage improvements, or other mitigation.
• Ask communities to develop and implement plans for lowering flood risk in these problem areas. The legislation gives local community leaders discretion to determine the type of corrective action.
• Set deadlines for FEMA to develop criteria to govern these repeat loss plans and determine any appropriate sanctions for failure to act.
• Require FEMA to report to Congress every two years on the progress of mitigating in heavy-risk areas.
Scott and Schatz both serve on the committee of jurisdiction, the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Their legislation has support from various constituent, industry, consumer, and environmental organizations, including the Municipal Association of South Carolina, South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance, National Taxpayers Union (NTU), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Sierra Club, National Association of Realtors (NAR), and most importantly, hundreds of South Carolinians who wrote Sen. Scott in favor of this update to the NFIP.

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