STEAMROLLED: Flood insurance changes already hurting Hancock
By Dwayne Bremer
Oct 1, 2013, 19:37
The Jourdan River Steamer was demolished on Tuesday after owners were unable to get a permit to rebuild the restaurant. The Steamer was doomed by a repetitive loss clause in the National Flood Insurance Program. New changes in the NFIP are expected to costs businesses and homeowners thousands of dollars in additional insurance costs and could hinder future development, officials said.
Businesses and home owners in Hancock County could be in for a rude awakening soon because of new changes in the National Flood insurance Program (NFIP).
Last year, congress passed the Biggert-Waters Act, which adjusted flood insurance rates in the NFIP.
Despite fierce resistance from congressional leaders in Mississippi, Louisiana and other coastal states, the changes went into effect on Tuesday.
They include removing subsidized rates for various structures in flood zones; increases in annual rates; placing limits on a bank's forced insurance placement; and more.
The changes were made because the NFIP, which was formed in 1968, was reportedly losing billions of dollars per year in the past decade, officials said.
"We have been fighting this for the past year," Hancock County Attorney Ronnie Artigues said Tuesday. "It could cripple development in our county."
One example of how flood regulations are affecting Hancock County is the Jourdan River Steamer restaurant.
The popular restaurant was rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; however, it was damaged again During Hurricane Gustav in 2007, and again last year during Hurricane Isaac.
Owner Hank Plauche pleaded with supervisors to allow him to rebuild at his former elevation, but because of repetitive-loss regulations, he was unable to get a permit.
On Tuesday, construction crews demolished the restaurant and bar on Highway 603.
"It is a sad day," Plauche said as he watched a backhoe tear down the walls of his once-vibrant eatery.
In Lakeshore and Bayside Park, several residents have already received letters from FEMA which announce drastic changes in home flood insurance rates.
Abry Liebig, who has owned his home on Tunica Street since 1998, said his insurance is going up nearly 400 percent.
Liebig said he received a letter from FEMA last week, stating he had 30 days to pay the balance or his policy will be dropped.
"I was paying about $400 a year and now they want more than $1,700," he said. "I just don't know if I can afford it."
Liebig may not be alone, officials said.
In Hancock County alone, hundreds of homeowners may be affected, Artigues said.
Mississippi state and federal leaders have continued to fight against the implementation of the changes, but so far, they have been unsuccessful.
U.S. Rep Steven Palazzo has been one of the most vocal congressional leaders against the implementation of the Biggert-Waters Act.
Last week, Palazzo and 73 other congressional leaders sent a letter to House leadership requesting a one-year delay in the flood insurance changes.
The letter said the changes have "the potential to devastate home values, small businesses, and entire communities across the country."
"Despite the efforts of the House, the U.S. Senate has, to date, failed to pass any measure shielding policyholders from catastrophic flood insurance rate increases," the letter said. "It is thus incumbent for the U.S. House of Representatives to once again lead and put forth a measure that will delay the implementation of steep rate increases. We urge on behalf of our constituents that the House-passed amendment included in the FY14 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, or a similar provision providing relief from the rapid and unanticipated flood insurance rate increases, be added to the forthcoming debt ceiling legislation in addition to any legislative vehicle used to complete the appropriations process for the 2014 fiscal year.”