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Flood plain shrinkage to cut residents' insurance cost Savings tagged at $750 a year

Rep. Brian Higgins returned home Thursday with good news for his old South Buffalo neighborhood.

No longer will most homeowners along Cazenovia Creek -- he grew up on nearby Milford Street -- have to carry flood insurance.

The long-awaited change, decades in the making, removes about 2,700 homeowners from Buffalo's 100-year flood plain and will save them up to $750 a year in flood insurance premiums.

"It's an inequity whose time has come," Higgins said at a news conference celebrating the change.

A parade of politicians spoke of the long fight to reduce the city's flood plain, some claiming the effort started more than 30 years ago.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) finally agreed this year, and the result is a flood plain with fewer than 450 homes.

Under federal law, property owners in a 100-year flood plain are required to carry costly flood insurance if they have a mortgage.

"Government has enough to do," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who many credit with lobbying FEMA to change the flood plain. "It doesn't have to create unnecessary work and that's what we had here."

Schumer praised FEMA for taking the time to visit South Buffalo and see firsthand the numerous projects that have reduced the likelihood of severe flooding along Cazenovia Creek.

Higgins and Schumer looked on as Mayor Byron W. Brown signed a ceremonial version of the local law changing the city's flood plain. The real law, approved by the Buffalo Common Council, took effect in late September.

Brown said the city is contacting the families who stand to benefit from the change with information on what they need to do before dropping their insurance.

"No longer will mortgage holders be able to require expensive flood insurance from home buyers," he said.

South Council Member Michael Kearns welcomed the change but reminded homeowners that they must take it upon themselves to contact their lender and insurer.

"No one will come to you," Kearns said. "The squeaky wheel gets the oil."

e-mail: pfairabanks@buffnews.com

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