Hoeven: FEMA Needs Flexibility to Provide Common Sense Flood Protections in Red River Valley

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate this afternoon, Senator John Hoeven highlighted legislation he has authored to provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with the flexibility to better protect lives and property from flooding.

The FEMA Common Sense and Cost Effectiveness Act of 2011 will give the agency the flexibility it needs to make “common sense” decisions regarding such situations. Hoeven’s remarks are as follows:

 For example, for some time now, we have been working to fight chronic annual flooding in the Red River Valley, which includes the City of Fargo, one of our region’s most dynamic economic engines.

Part of government’s role in creating an environment for private investment and economic development is securing and protecting infrastructure so businesses can thrive.

 In the case of Fargo and the Valley, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has found it necessary to buy out houses in the area because it’s more cost effective than protecting them year in and year out.

 When the agency buys out a property, however, it has a hard and fast rule that prohibits building structures on that property – even flood mitigation structures – to prevent development that might require future protection from flooding.

 It’s a reasonable ban in some, or even many, cases – but not all.

As a consequence of the rule, every year the federal government helps pay to build temporary levees to protect houses along the Red River – and every year they’re compelled to tear those levees down again at great expense to the government – and ultimately of course, to the taxpayer. Everyone knows that permanent dikes would clearly be more cost effective – and save money for local, state, and federal government.

 Residents know it. FEMA knows it. Local officials know it. But under current law, there’s nothing they can do about it.

That’s why I will be introducing legislation called the FEMA Common Sense and Cost Effectiveness Act of 2011 to give the agency the flexibility it needs to make “common sense” decisions in such cases.

 Building those levees once, and leaving them in place, will provide better flood protection for people and property, better fiscal stewardship, and save taxpayer dollars.”

 Hoeven has been working with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to change the current rule that prevents construction of permanent flood protections on bought out lands, either administratively or using a legislative fix. With current predictions from the National Weather Service predicting the Red River to crest at 39.5 feet on Sunday, Hoeven has also made clear to the White House and FEMA the importance of expediting approval of the Presidential Disaster Declaration for North Dakota.

Click here to watch his remarks regarding FEMA.