Author Topic: Flood Insurance coverage depends on knowing where Embankment Dams are located  (Read 109 times)

Doug K

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Hi all,

Very early on in this Erie Canal Embankment Repair effort it became apparent to some of the many Erie Canal neighbors, that what was happening in their backyards may have long reaching affects. Especially when the NY Canal Corporation was talking about unsafe earthen dams as the cause for this safety work. When the property owner of the land says Unsafe Dams... neighboring homeowners have to wonder if the need Flood Insurance...  right?

The ECNA jumped right into understanding FEMA, Flood Zones Ratings, and if the National Flood Insurance Program, NFIP for short, was going to be something that would come under discussion for neighbors along the waterway We even put this Forum Board up to start that discussion. Local insurance companies were contacted and costs were investigated, but no one had the answer if this canal embankment work would result in "mandatory" needs for Flood Insurance.

You see, once you start opening up the FEMA discussion some striking facts arise... here's a few:

1) The Erie Canal itself, the waterway, has a FEMA flood rating of A1. Not the areas along it's earthen dams, or the areas lower than the waterline, the actual Erie Canal waterway has a Flood Zone Rating.. cause in essence it is a flooded area that is contained. A quick look at FEMA Flood Zone maps shows this rather unique fact.

Here's a link to A Flood Zone Ratings - https://www.fema.gov/zone-ae-and-a1-30

2)There are many streams & creeks that pass under the Erie Canal using cement culverts or old metal pipes. The areas around many of these culverts also carry a FEMA Flood Zone Rating that requires neighboring properties to get mandatory flood insurance due to an increased potential for flooding. So there are already many Erie Canal neighbors who may be paying for NFIP already, or have their own policy.

3) FEMA,  just like many Erie Canal neighbors & the surrounding community, will be seeing the Erie Canal mbankment Dams cleared off for the very first time ever. FEMA is only 40 years old this April, the Erie Canal is 200 years old, the newer NYS Barge Canal turned 100 in 2018. There are few people alive that have actually seen clear, safe canal embankments, it has been years & years since anything close to this has been done.

Go and take a look at the History of FEMA here: https://www.fema.gov/about-agency

So the real question is this...Do we believe that FEMA will simply ignore these newly cleared dams along the Erie Canal?

FLOOD INSURANCE COST ESTIMATES:
 About a year ago we checked on Flood Insurance pricing, both FEMA based and private. What we found was unsettling. If you are NOT required by FEMA Flood Zone mapping to have Flood Insurance the cost was typically about 2X times the current cost of the home's insurance price. If you pay $600 now, adding a Flood "rider" would result in a new cost of $1200 annually.

Now, if that same  homeowner's property was in a FEMA zone, making coverage mandatory, the cost could rise some 2x-4X that of "non-mandatory" areas. So that $600 policy now could balloon to $2400 depending on FEMA Zone rating, or the properties elevation to the potential flood source. It get's complicated and choices get limited so that many only have the option of the National Flood Insurance program.

FEMA-NFIP Information: https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program

WHAT'S NEXT:
Since the NY Canal Corporation has now created a method to deal with it's current issue surrounding canal embankment dam safety, the essence of it's Earthen Embankment Integrity Program (EEIP), it's hard to believe that their OWN Erie cacanal Flood Zone will be negatively impacted. Making the Embankment System safer, by making these Dams compliant to FEMA and US Army Corp standards should actually help the argument against changing any FEMA ratings, or having this EEIP work result in any NEW FEMA Flood Zones being identified.

Making the Erie Canal safer though EEIP, is in the direction of goodness, and should be viewed that way.

Hopefully those who live adjacent to or below these dams will be able to hear soon, that there is zero affect from the removal of vegetation on the dams that will result in a need for Flood Insurance.

Hopefully the NY Canal Corp and NY DEC can convince FEMA, if they come calling, that matters are well in hand, the safety factor is being improved along the Erie Canal and there is no reason to make any changes to flood zone ratings.

Of course...  that will be a hard argument to make for those who are still living under vegetation covered earthen dams east of Rochester.

Something to consider if you plan to keep fighting to leave these unsafe Embankment Dams in your community or in your backyard.