The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked for public input on changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) last fall. Over 300 people hit by flooding are responding by signing a petition drafted by Anthropocene Alliance — a nonprofit group “fighting for climate and environmental justice”.
Anthropocene Alliance doesn’t mince words in the petition, which is addressed to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. In the introduction, the group states clearly, “We are flood survivors, and we are angry.”
“We’ve witnessed death and destruction from Hurricanes Harvey, Florence, Laura, Sally, Sandy, Matthew, Irma, Delta, and Zeta, as well as from overland flooding in the Midwest,” the petition states. “We’ve lived without electricity, running water, and secure shelter. We’ve heard our children cry from the absence of friends, school, and safety. And we’ve confronted homelessness, illness, and mind-numbing red tape from insurance companies and government agencies.”
The petition makes very specific demands of FEMA, including:
- Stop allowing developers, disreputable planners, engineers and politicians to use the NFIP to encourage building in flood zones that puts the new properties and surrounding properties at risk of flooding.
- Stop paying for the repair of property that floods repeatedly and, instead, “prioritize mitigation measures such as elevation, home buyouts, and community relocation.”
- Start planning now to relocate whole towns and cities threatened by sea level rise flooding.
- Improve the accuracy of FEMA flood maps that take climate change and sea level rise into account.
- Require states to to pass uniform seller’s disclosure laws that clearly state a property’s flood risk in order for properties in the states to be eligible for coverage under the NFIP.
- Set NFIP premiums that adequately reflect flood risk, and ensure it’s “affordable and accessible to low-income households until such time that the communities can be moved out of harm’s way.”
- Make buyouts more desirable by covering the true cost residents of areas that flood will have to pay to move to areas free of flooding.
- Protect or restore natural barriers to flooding, such floodplains, wetlands, forests, watersheds, salt marshes and beaches.
In the closing paragraph of the petition signed by Harriet Festing, Anthropocene Alliance’s executive director, the group encourages FEMA to open a dialogue with them.
“The flood survivors below all believe that for our children to have a safe and healthy planet, we need to quickly end fossil fuel use and transition to an economy focused on the satisfaction of real, human needs,” the petition states. “At the same time, provision must be made to protect individuals and communities from present and future harms due to more intense storms, rising sea levels, subsidence, bad development, and flooding.”
With so much at stake, buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents in coastal areas need to band together with groups like Anthropocene Alliance to pressure the federal, state and local governments to do what’s right for all property owners in coastal areas susceptible to sea level rise flooding. Voting for candidates who not only recognize the challenges posed by climate change and sea level rise flooding but who are prepared to do something about them is also essential.