The chorus of state and local officials calling on the federal government to do some more homework before implementing new coastal flood zone maps and flood insurance laws now includes Attorney General Martha Coakley.
In an Oct. 2 letter to Congressional leaders, Coakley demands that Congress delay implementation of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 until the Federal Emergency Management Agency has confirmed the science behind its proposed new flood maps.
Massachusetts' Congressional delegation signed a letter to Senate and House leadership Sept. 26 asking for an affordability study, a delay in premium increases, a review of the maps to ensure accuracy and an improvement in FEMA's outreach activities.
"While we support the underlying intent of the legislation," the Sept. 26 letter reads, "we have grave concerns about its implementation." It is signed by senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and all eight Massachusetts members of the U.S. House of Representatives (excluding Markey's former 5th District seat, to be filled in a December special election).
In Coakley's letter, she argued FEMA should also be made to do an affordability review related to the new maps. Homes and businesses not previously thought to be in flood-prone areas would be, according to the proposed new FEMA maps.
Coakley and others argue that homeowners and business owners in those areas would be forced to buy expensive flood insurance.
On Tuesday, officials in Chatham, Mass., voted to put off adopting the new FEMA maps, arguing, like Coakley, that they should be peer-reviewed. The new maps reportedly would affect about 1,300 parcels in Chatham.
Sept. 21, House Speaker Robert DeLeoreached out to FEMA to ask for a delay so that adoption of the maps and insurance reforms could be restructured. Earlier that week, state Rep. James Cantwell of Marshfield testified that the new flood maps would "radically" increase insurance rates and drive down property values.
Cantwell filed a bill calling for the state Commissioner of Insurance to regularly review how National Flood Insurance Program rates are set.
The new maps update coastal flood demarcations for the first time in 20 years, and Biggert-Waters would update insurance risk modeling based on the new maps, which account for rare, extreme flooding.
Courtesy of Matthew L. Brown