Property owners in South Buffalo who are fighting a federal mandate that forces them to buy flood insurance have found another ally in Washington.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton wants the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update its floodplain maps for South Buffalo and some Lovejoy neighborhoods. The New York Democrat sent a letter this week to FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison stating that as Congress debates reform measures for the agency, she will make the modernization of floodplain maps a priority.
Clinton expressed concern that outdated maps might be forcing many South Buffalo residents to have unnecessary flood insurance. A recent Common Council survey of 732 property owners found that the average flood insurance premium was $534 a year, with some paying as much as $5,500.
"The fact is that there has not been a flood in the affected area in over 50 years, and the City of Buffalo has spent millions of dollars to prevent ice jams in Cazenovia Creek and other flood prevention and mitigation efforts," Clinton wrote.
She acknowledged that people who own properties in "legitimate" floodplains must be required to carry flood insurance. Such a rule, she said, ensures homeowners that they will be covered in the event of a natural disaster and that the federal government's exposure to uncovered damages will be limited.
"However, such a significant mandate should only be made when the information determining the actual flood plain area is accurate," she said.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, had previously joined an effort launched by Council Members Michael P. Kearns of the South District and Richard A. Fontana of the Lovejoy District to try to ease flood insurance mandates.
The city will hire a consultant this summer to prepare studies that make a case for declassifying properties from being in flood zones, or at least revising the boundaries.