NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 28, 2013

Feds host hearing on flood maps, insurance

Questions arise over major changes along local coast

BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
STAFF WRITER

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Federal officials involved with flood insurance are holding public hearings Monday in Lynn to hear from residents concerned about increases in their flood insurance policies.

Representatives of U.S. Rep. John Tierney, D-Salem, have organized an event at Lynn Municipal Auditorium at 3 City Hall Square in that community.

The informational meeting will run from 3 to 8 p.m. It is lengthy in part because each homeowner will have different concerns, and individual cases can be discussed.

Members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be present, as will members of Tierney’s staff.

In 2012, federal legislation was enacted to change the way that the federal flood insurance program is administered. The changes had a significant impact on Salisbury Beach, Plum Island, and sections of Newburyport along the Merrimack River.

Leaders in the insurance industry were concerned that the number of weather-related calamities was growing, and the insurance pool could not pay for all claims.

Also, many federal representatives felt that insurance policies that covered waterfront homes should not be subsidized by the government. As a result, homeowners in flood zones will see their flood insurance costs increase significantly in the coming years.

The change in flood insurance policy comes at a time when federal flood maps, which are used to determine who is required to get flood insurance, have undergone substantial changes. The new maps have greatly expanded the flood zone area, particularly at Salisbury Beach, along Bridge Road in Salisbury, and along the Merrimack River in Newburyport.

And national leaders have limited the number of homes eligible to receive subsidized insurance. Such developments will be explained at the Lynn meeting.

In a statement, Tierney said, “Some homeowners and business owners in the area are facing what are reportedly very sharp increases in their flood insurance premium and rates.

“I am pleased that the FEMA is offering the opportunity for local residents impacted by the changes to ask questions and to be heard.”

Tierney added, “Moving forward, I will continue to aggressively work with my colleagues in the Massachusetts delegation to address the affordability concerns that have arisen from these new maps.”

Local officials in Newbury and in this community have stated that those who own property near the water should check with their insurance carriers to determine whether they owe more for insurance, and/or whether their once-subsidized policies are still in place.