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Senate Bill 2039 exempts ND from floodplains building restrictions

United States Congress

Letter from:

George Sorvalis
Water Protection Network, Coordinator



Dear WPN Listserve,

Having already passed the Senate, we are very concerned about S. 2039 «Read More», which is scheduled for a House vote today (under suspension of the rules – which means limited debate and ¾ vote to pass). It is a stand-alone bill that would exempt the state of North Dakota from building restrictions on land that FEMA has bought under its Hazard Mitigation Grants Program to move people and structures out of the floodplain. Land bought under this program is deed-restricted for open space and recreation. Our concerns are outlined in the talking points below. Attached is the bill, and a letter from Smarter Safer, which is a diverse coalition representing taxpayer, environmental, insurance and free-market groups. The community scrambled last week when this bill was scheduled for a House vote, and leadership pulled it off of the floor. But now it is back and we could use anyone’s help willing to pitch in. If you can pitch in, give me call 202-797-6617. Thanks!

• S. 2039 would allow North Dakota to build permanent levees and redevelop properties
   that were already relocated using taxpayer dollars under FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation
   Grant Program. This contravenes longstanding federal policy that would still apply
   to 49 other states that requires that once federal funds are used to relocate
   communities and buildings out of floodplains, the land will be dedicated
   and maintained in perpetuity for a use that is compatible with open space,
   recreational, or wetlands management practices.

• S. 2039 seeks to overturn that requirement and is therefore opposed by a broad array
   of interests represented by the SmarterSafer Coalition, including NWF, the Association of
   State Floodplain Managers, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and many others.
   The SmarterSafer letter is attached. «Read More»

• Environmental Concerns: American Rivers, Ceres, Environmental Defense Fund,
   National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, ConserveAmerica and the
   Sierra Club oppose S. 2039 as it will destroy wildlife habitat and restrict
   that natural flow of rivers.

• Flooding Concerns: the Association of State Floodplain Managers oppose S. 2039
   because it will exacerbate downstream flooding and harm the integrity of FEMA’s
   Hazard Mitigation Program.

• Taxpayer Concerns: Taxpayers for Common Sense, The National Taxpayers Union, R Street
   and any others oppose S. 2039 as it exempts North Dakota from requirements
   in the recently passed Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act that would have required
   the repayment of grant funds that created the open space the state seeks to reclaim.

• Insurer Concerns: Reinsurance Association of America, National Association of
   Mutual Insurance Companies and more oppose S. 2039 because it will have detrimental
   impacts on the National Flood Insurance Program and companies ability to compete
   in the free-market.

• This legislation has not had a hearing in either the House or Senate, nor has the public
   or impacted federal agencies had the opportunity to weigh in.

• This issue was already addressed with specific allowances for communities in North Dakota
   in the recently signed into law Biggert-Waters Flood Reform Act of 2012.

Without hearings, its hard to understand why S. 2039 is even necessary.

George Sorvalis
Water Protection Network, Coordinator
www.waterprotectionnetwork.org

National Wildlife Federation
Manager, Water Resources Coalitions and Strategic Partnerships
901 E Street, NW Suite 400
Washington, DC 20004
202-797-6617 (ph)
202-797-6646 (fx)
sorvalisg@nwf.org

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