Flood-Prone Land Likely to Increase by 45%

July 25, 2011

According to a three-year study, the size of the nation's flood plains is expected to rise between 40 percent to 45 percent over the next 90 years, signifying a large impact on the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

The study predicts that waves of seawater will push deeper inland during stronger storms and as oceans rise 0.75 and 1.9 meters by 2100. These climate-related changes are likely to increase the current NFIP policy volume of 5.6 million policies, possibly doubling by the end of the century. Federal Emergency Management Agency Geologist Mark Crowell says that the agency must "incorporate the effects of climate change more directly into various aspects of the NFIP," but he said that the study is unlikely to recommend the inclusion of climate policies in the program.

The study is likely to stir up controversy should it recommend the adoption of enhanced building codes or prohibit development in flood-prone regions. Republicans view the research of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on which the study is partially based, with skepticism. U.S. House Financial Services Committee Senior Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) says, "I think there's enough people who are unconvinced about the true direction of climate change, [like] the impacts of it and how drastic it will be." She notes that the IPCC science has been challenged.

The increase in floodwater levels over the next 90 years may be small, but adopting setbacks that are further inland from where ocean levels will rise and higher freeboard standards to elevate homes could be helpful. These changes could be accomplished through insurance incentives, FEMA officials say. Experts say the study should expand flood zone boundaries and should increase the FEMA standard of riskiness. Moreover, the report will demonstrate that flood insurance rates could increase nearly 70 percent by 2100, which some say could encourage more people to stay away from the coasts and slow building in those areas.

Source:  Flood-Prone Land Likely to Increase by 45% -- a Major Challenge to Federal Insurance Program

© 2011 Information Inc.

Read more: A Focus on Flood Instance, 5 to Watch, November 2010