FEMA Agrees to Work Toward Comprehensive Flood Protection for Minot Area Allowing More Home Buyouts

Delegation Calls on Agency To Use Greater Flexibility for Home Buyout Eligibility

WASHINGTON – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials today assured Senator John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg that the agency would work with city, county and state officials to develop a comprehensive flood protection plan for the Minot area that would maximize its ability to use Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) dollars to buy out homes at risk for future flooding. In a conference call this morning with David Miller, FEMA’s Associate Administrator for Federal Insurance and Mitigation, Hoeven and Berg pressed for flexibility in the program. Senator Kent Conrad was unable to participate in this morning’s call but had staff sit in. 

More than 11,000 Minot residents were forced to evacuate their homes last spring, and city officials report that as many as 4,000 homes in neighborhoods nearest the river were damaged by flood waters. Some continue to be at risk and should be bought out, state and local officials say. 

Currently, FEMA says only a limited number of homes within the 100-year floodplain would qualify for buyouts, whereas thousands of homes outside the floodplain were damaged by flooding this year, many of which are deemed by state and local officials to be at risk for future flood damage. 

Hoeven made the case for broader buyouts to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate last Friday following the Senator’s flood update meeting in Minot, and asked Fugate for a point person to address the home buyout situation quickly. Conrad followed up with a call to Fugate yesterday to make the case, as well. 

Fugate referred the issue to David Miller, and Hoeven arranged for this morning’s call. Hoeven and Berg pressed for inclusion of homes outside the 100-year floodplain for buyout eligibility using HMGP funding. 

In response, Miller told the Senator and Congressman that he would work with the state to incorporate FEMA planners into the process to develop a comprehensive flood protection plan for the community, an approach that would allow for more HMGP funded home buyouts. Miller committed to meeting in Minot on Oct. 20 with state officials to begin outlining the plan. 

“The fact of the matter is this area has had a 100-year flood event in two out of the last three years, and five times in the last 30 years,” Hoeven and Berg said. “The 100-year floodplain is clearly no longer a credible predictor of risk and FEMA needs to take a different approach in determining eligibility for home buyouts.” 

Congress’s most recent Continuing Resolution included funding to replenish FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, which would cover the approximately $60 million in HMGP funding it’s estimated the Minot area would receive. Hoeven has been pushing to make sure these funds are used as expeditiously and effectively as possible. 

To help enhance protection for flood-prone communities like Minot, Hoeven has also introduced legislation called the FEMA Common Sense and Cost Effectiveness Act that would allow FEMA and the Corps to build permanent rather than temporary dikes that later have to be removed on flood-prone properties acquired by FEMA with HMGP funding after a flood event. Current law requires the Corps to remove temporary dikes constructed on properties in areas bought out with HMGP funds, resulting in less protection for homeowners and greater expense to taxpayers. The Senator’s bill would result in more security for residents at reduced cost.

Hoeven also pressed Fugate in his call last week to ensure that temporary housing needs be met until people can be placed in FEMA trailers. Fugate told the Senator that the agency intended to have displaced residents in trailers by the end of October. This week the agency extended the application period for the Temporary Sheltering Assistance program to Nov. 10 to ensure that residents in need are assured of temporary accommodations until they can be placed in more permanent housing.