Environmental Defense Applauds Flood Reform Bill

May 25, 2001

Environmental Defense today praised Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jim Leach (R-IA) for introducing legislation to boost and prioritize federal funds used to relocate frequently flooded homes.

The Flood Loss Reduction Act of 2001 would set aside as much as 30% — up from 20% — of disaster relief funds for relocating flooded homes by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA pays 75% of the cost of relocating each home. The bill would also authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to spend $100 million annually to relocate flood-prone homes before floods occur.

“People need real choices between returning to the river bottom or moving to higher ground,” said Environmental Defense attorney Scott Faber. “Federally subsidized flood control, flood relief, and flood insurance have lured people into harm’s way; now, Congress has a chance to end the cycle of rebuilding in the floodplain at taxpayer expense.”

Co-sponsors of the bill include Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI). Rep. James Leach (R-IA), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. Thomas M. Barrett (D-WI), Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR), Rep. Lane Evans (D-IL), Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO), Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R-MD), Rep. Leonard L. Boswell (D-IA), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN). Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Tom Petri (R-WI), John Shimkus (R-IL), Bill Luther (D-MN).

Despite more than $30 billion spent on federal levees and dams since the 1930s, annual average flood losses have climbed to more than $4 billion annually as development has grown in floodplains. Many communities have begun to reject structural solutions like levees in favor of relocation, which permanently eliminates the threat of flood losses and long-term disaster relief costs.

More than 25,000 homes, businesses and farms have been relocated, acquired or elevated since the disastrous Midwestern floods of 1993, when Congress first created the post-flood relocation program.

The Flood Loss Reduction Act also directs FEMA and the Corps to develop a flood loss reduction strategy for the Upper Mississippi River valley, and to prioritize national flood loss reduction spending.