Author Topic: Flood Insurance coverage depends on knowing where Embankment Dams are located  (Read 182 times)

Doug K

  • ECNA Co-Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1117
  • Choosing to Live FREE of Social Media Influences
  • Location: Port Byron NY
    • ECNA US Website
If folks haven't figured it out.. many of our local residential neighborhoods have been built along the Erie Canal Embankments through the years. Now it has come to light that perhaps many of these neighborhoods might have been better off in "other locations" as it's been uncovered by the ECNA that scores & scores of homes are located at the base of some very long, fairly tall, Earthen Embankment Dams that hold water IN the Erie Canal.

The Erie Canal itself is a FEMA recognized Flood Zone with an A1 loses less than 1% of it's water through leaking or flooding annually... and many culvert areas along it's length also share FEMA flood ratings. Those ratings result in many Erie Canal Neighbors having to pay for mandatory Homeowners's Flood Insurance, purchased nationally through FEMA.

But will all Erie Canal Neighbors have to pay for required Flood Insurance soon?

The Embankment Dams that string together to  help create the Erie are all in need of repair, and part of a recent Earthen Embankment Integrity Program started by the NY Power Authority and NY Canal Corporation. The Erie's embankment dams, long "grandfathered" in to the DEC books and FEMA records, are now being cleared, "de-rooted", and will have grassy covering when completed, will now start to look like the Dams they have been all these years. They were hidden under dangerous overgrowth and years of mis-handled routine maintenance by both the NYDOT and NYS Thruway Authority, both prior owners of the NY Canal Corporation.

The new owners NY Power Authority (NYPA) are making things right, both for the Erie Canal with it's National Heritage designation, AND for the safety of the public and communities that use the Erie canal and live along it as it winds across New York State. NYPA and the NYCC have also recently started calling these Embankments by their proper term Dams only recently as a result of their new efforts towards safety.

The word DAM was stricken from the Canal Corporation by it's prior owners for years, for cost savings reasons. That is all behind them now.

So.. where are the Dams? Right beside many neighborhoods who can't see them.. it's an issue with too many trees in the way.

Here's a recent post on the ECNA forum showing 3-4 dams in Perinton area... these are all dams, some are raised longer embankment sections while others  hold back larger bodies of water like a lake. If you want an example of something "hiding in plain site" read this.'s-all-a-huge-cover-up/?message=308

So folks here's a few questions anyone who lives next to or below the waterline of the Erie Canal should be asking:

1) How long before the NY DEC steps in to start measuring dams, naming dams and getting these "new" dams added to the NY State Registry of Dams?

2) How long before FEMA notices the changes and comes to take a look, and possibly reclassify some areas based on current state?

3) How did all of this happen without our Town or Village officials even taking note of what was happening below these dams?

As a homeowner, living next to the Erie Canal, the fact that we now live below a Dam is one thing... add insult to injury by making me pay for Flood Insurance isn't going to sit well... it's the stuff of Class Action litigation in most cases.

If you are concerned about this too, it's time to start getting together to insure that making the Erie Canal Embankments SAFER, by having the NY Canal Corporation do the necessary repair work, should result in NO NEED for mandatory Flood Insurance through the NFIP & FEMA.

Post a reply if you agree, join as an ECNA member to help steer the discussion and decision to not penalize the Erie Canal Neighbors for the negligence of others... including past owners.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 05:01:52 pm by Michael Caswell »

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter


  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 1
An embankment blowout would create deviatating damages to property.  The federal government has really tightened the regulations imposed on mortgage lenders to be the enforcement of making sure homes that are leveraged with a mortgage or a HELOC and are located in a flood zone.  The fines have increased substantially for these lenders for not policing properly.  The problem for the federal government is that when there is a flooding disaster, they (via FEMA) are the ones writing checks to the uninsured. 

With all that being said, NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) is not your only option for flood insurance.  My agency works with other specialty flood insurance carriers that most of the time can provide better coverage at a better rate than the NFIP.  Since the NFIP is a government manager insurance provider, they have to take all flood risks....if you live on the coast or the edge of the Mississippi or in Monroe County, NY.  The specialty carriers I work with are private companies and they have the right to decline risks, so they are able to avoid insuring flood insurance for coastal properties or those along the Mississippi.

Id be happy to talk with anyone about this.  Maybe I could help your family better understand and manager your risks and also better help manage the expense of your insurance.

Jake Conkling
Fairport Insurance Agency
Spencerport Insurance Agency

Michael Caswell

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 796
  • Location: Fairport NY
I'd be very interested to know what this insurance would cost the average homeowner. Can you supply some examples?

Although my property has a FEMA flood zone running across it, it's on the opposite side of the canal to these embankments  and with a flood risk of zero, so probably not a good example.

Doug K

  • ECNA Co-Founder
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1117
  • Choosing to Live FREE of Social Media Influences
  • Location: Port Byron NY
    • ECNA US Website
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 -

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:

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

 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:

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.