The Governor’s office is pushing legislation that would require every Iowa city or county with a flood risk to take part in the national flood insurance program. The Rebuild Iowa Office heard complaints from residents during last year’s floods that they tried to buy federal flood insurance but couldn’t because their town wasn’t enrolled in the program.
Susan Judkins, the RIO inter-governmental affairs director, says mandatory enrollment would provide better protection for residents. Judkins says, "Absolutely, and we think that the process cities need to go through is valuable in terms of future flood protection and we don’t feel it is too onerous and costly."
The chief executive officer of the Independent Insurance Agents of Iowa says becoming certified can be costly for local governments. Bob Skow says some towns have to build new dikes or storm sewers to comply with federal flood plain management practices.
Skow says, "Some of those communities, the only thing people get is water in their basements and you can’t buy flood insurance for that — the federal government doesn’t sell that. And then, even if they qualify, you’re talking about big dollars to even buy the coverage so sometimes when they analyze all those things, some of those small towns go, ‘We’d only have a handful of people who’d buy it,’ and they might not get much coverage so there’s a lot of a lot of pieces to this puzzle."
Skow says the average cost of federal flood insurance for a homeowner is $600 a year but can be as high as $2000 for a high risk property. Supporters say that’s a small price to pay when faced with the prospect of losing everything. Many of Iowa’s larger cities are already enrolled, which means residents can buy federal flood insurance.
Some smaller communities have never been certified because it requires them to adopt certain flood plain management practices. State Senator Jerry Behn, a Republican from Boone, says some towns simply can’t afford the expense. Behn says: "So I’m suggesting that if this bill is going to go as it is, it needs to have the money to go with it so you can help these little cities. To just pass a mandate and say, ‘Now you gotta’ do this and you’re going to have to find your own way to pay for it,’ after they’re recovering from floods, they’ve already got a lot of problems, now you’re going to pass this on them to? I just don’t think that’s appropriate."
Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says many communities that have declined to enroll in the federal program were flooded last summer, and he says it’s unfair to expect state assistance if they aren’t willing to help themselves.
Hogg says, "The point here is the world changed on June 11th, 12th, and 13, and Senator Behn, I listen to your comments and I guess we could say, ‘Well, let’s not mandate them to do anything,’ but on the other hand, the law that should go with that is we won’t do anything to help you guys again in the future if you have a flood."
Hogg says the bill would only apply to the 119 un-enrolled cities or counties that have a flood hazard. The list ranges from towns as small as Carbon, with only 28 residents, to communities with a few thousand, like Toledo and Spirit Lake.