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October 26, 2013

Worries grow over impact of coastal flood policy

NEWBURYPORT — Municipal, state, federal officials and local real-estate professionals yesterday gravely came to a meeting of the minds on one emerging waterfront issue: New federal flood maps and proposed increases in flood insurance rates could have a “destabilizing” effect on local community life.

And they vowed to learn more and initiate action to slow the thrust of new federal regulations.

“New rules and rates are hurting consumer confidence,” said Karen Lynch, a Realtor and team manager of ReMax on the River in Newburyport.

“It is making it hard to sell a house (on Plum Island) because we don’t know what to tell people about what they will pay for flood insurance. There doesn’t seem to be a place to find answers” so that real-estate commerce can continue.

The matter of real estate came up at a meeting of the Merrimack River Beach Alliance, a group of public officials that generally focuses on beachfront erosion and fortifying the jetties.

State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, co-chair of the MRBA, introduced the topic because he said that many Essex County residents could be affected by new flood maps introduced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The maps expand the number of residences and businesses that are in a flood zone. FEMA officials have said if there is greater risk, property owners must pay more for flood insurance.

These officials are reacting to the federal Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, that expands flood zones so that more money will be generated by property owners to pay future claims.

Political analysts say that recent natural disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy that damaged parts of New York and New Jersey, have created a situation where the federal government doesn’t have the money to pay all claims that such disasters have produced.

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