Levee certification still up in the air

March 14, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Great Ohio Flood of 1913, the state’s most devastating weather disaster, Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is reminding Ohioans during National Flood Safety Awareness Week, March 18-22, the importance of evaluating their need for flood insurance and understanding how to secure it.

Taylor said the financial protection against flood damage is not included in a standard homeowners or renters insurance policy. She said coverage has to be purchased separately and that there is a 30-day waiting period before it becomes effective.

Flood insurance rates has been a topic of interest locally since the city of Portsmouth and the village of New Boston have been involved with levee certification through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA announced the new certification requirement in 2010 to cities and communities across the United States. The agency warned that while this was not a mandate, FEMA would de-accredit any community’s floodwall that has not met the requirements before the deadline of April 2011. Neither entity had completed their work by that date, so a grace period of 18 months was put into play. The the result of de-accreditation would have meant that citizens in those communities would have to have purchase their own flood insurance for much higher rates.

“Ours has already been certified. We’re waiting on Portsmouth,” New Boston Village Administrator Steve Hamilton said. “It hasn’t been certified all the way through. But we are already done with ours, and we’re waiting on Portsmouth. We’ve already fixed our problem.”

Portsmouth Wastewater Director Rick Duncan said the process is ongoing.

“We are still working with our consultants to complete the certification,” Duncan said. “With all of this Long Term Control Plan stuff, I just haven’t had a chance to really follow up on it. But we’ve been in touch with FEMA and they understand that we’re still working on it.”

Is there a chance flood insurance rates for Portsmouth and New Boston will be impacted?

“If Portsmouth doesn’t get their stuff done it will,” Hamilton said. “We’re still waiting on them. Our engineer had to get with their engineer and try to work something out. I haven’t heard anything from them. We were supposed to meet last Friday (March 8), with their mayor and their solicitor to go over some more stuff, but they changed the meeting. They said they would call us back. I think Rick Duncan is working to see what’s going on. But we’re done and we’re waiting to see what they’re going to do with their underseepage problem.”

Duncan said a change in FEMA’s status of the levee is not expected.

“Right now we’re still accredited, and that will still be in place unless they would ever deaccredit us, which we don’t expect to happen,” Duncan said. “So really there’s no change right now. The flood maps are still the same. And the insurance is still in the same situation.”

Taylor said it is important for area residents to look into flood insurance before an actual need arises.

“Whether 100 years ago or today, flooding can be devastating on a personal and material level,” Taylor said. “Work with your insurance agent to ensure you have the appropriate financial safeguards in place to protect you and your belongings.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com.