Cardoza proposes amendment to protect Valley residents from 'unnecessary' flood insurance and 'onerous' new building standards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced) introduced an amendment to protect Valley businesses and homeowners from being required to purchase unnecessary federal flood insurance and comply with onerous new building standards.

Under the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011 (H.R. 1309), which the House of Representatives will vote on next week, much of the Central Valley would likely be designated as a floodplain. Properties already protected by levees and other flood control systems would nonetheless be included in FEMA’s flood maps as areas of “residual risk,” even if they have no history of flood losses. This residual risk designation would require federal flood insurance and costly new building restrictions for the area, according to a news release from Cardoza's office.

The Cardoza Amendment to the Flood Insurance Reform Act would remove the bill’s requirement that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) include areas of residual risk – such as the Central Valley – in its new flood maps.

In presenting his amendment today before the House Committee on Rules, Cardoza said, “In areas that I represent, such as Stockton and other affected areas of San Joaquin County, this bill would place in the floodplain 280,000 people who currently have flood protection provided by levees.. The CBO estimates that [flood insurance premiums] will be 2.25 times higher under this bill—or $68 million in annual premiums from the greater Stockton area alone.

“In addition to the proposed increase in premiums, the community would face significant new costs from the new building restrictions, as well as lost business due to the new building restrictions in the floodplain.Communities in the Central Valley are already facing some of the highest unemployment in the country—in many cases upwards of 20 percent. If warehouse facilities are driven out of the Valley to lower-cost areas due to these new requirements, our struggling job market will suffer another blow.”

Cardoza argued that the new residual risk designation would discourage communities from investing in their own flood control systems, saying, “Communities that don’t have a history of loss will have a hard time making the case to local residents that tens of millions of new tax dollars are needed to pay for a flood control project that yields no flood insurance benefit. Why build a project when the community will remain indefinitely in the floodplain?”

Cardoza concluded, “I am offering a common-sense amendment to prevent this unnecessary, if unintended, harm to our communities. I urge my colleagues to make this amendment in order.”