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    FEMA Mandatory Flood Insurance ("Flood Tax") Imposed Since July '98 in ELB & NLB May End Soon; Many Residents Eligible For Refund of Final Premium Paid

    Lakewood City Hall indicates L.A. river project on schedule for completion this month; if COE, County & FEMA move promptly, flood maps could be revised within 90 days and possibly sooner

    Property owners must take individual action to remove flood ins. req't from their property loan and get refund of final premium

    (December 12, 2001) -- has learned many ELB and NLB property owners may see an end to FEMA's mandatory "flood insurance" (imposed on them since July 1998 and more commonly called a "flood tax") within roughly 100 days and possibly as soon as mid-January.

    And, many property owners may be eligible for a refund of their 2001 flood insurance premium.

    That's the implication of an email sent today by the City of Lakewood to selected addressees, indicating the L.A. river (LACDA) flood control project (which raised the levee walls) "remains on schedule, according to the US Army Corps of Engineers, with construction completion expected by mid-December."

    When the LACDA project is completed, the Corps of Engineers and the County of L.A. are expected to notify FEMA, which is then expected to issue a "Letter of Map Revision" (LOMR) returning areas (including ELB, NLB and Lakewood) labelled at "100-year flood risk" in July, 1998 to minimal flood risk status (in which flood insurance is not required).

    If the LACDA project is completed in late December 2001, and the Corps and L.A. County promptly notify FEMA, FEMA would have 90 days to issue a LOMR but could do so more promptly, possibly as soon as mid-January 2002, Lakewood sources tell

    Issuance of the LOMR would pave the way for ELB, NLB (and Lakewood) property owners to remove themselves from FEMA's flood insurance requirement. (Under federal law, Flood insurance is required in FEMA declared "100-year" flood risk areas for mortgages and property loans from federally backed lenders to protect the federally backed lender.)

    Once the LOMR is issued, FEMA has indicated property owners will have to take certain steps on their own to remove the flood insurance requirement from their loans and get a refund of the final premium paid. Specifically, FEMA indicates property owners will have to:

  • Write a letter to their lender, attaching a copy of FEMA's LOMR and asking the lender to make a new flood insurance determination.

  • Obtain a letter from their lender acknowledging the lender's approval to end the insurance requirement for the loan. [Theoretically, a lender could require flood insurance even though FEMA does not, but as a practical matter, most do not.]

  • Contact the agent who sold them the flood insurance with the lender's and FEMA's letters to get the refund of their last premium.
  • FEMA has previously indicated many ELB and NLB property owners should be eligible for a refund of their 2001 flood insurance premium if their policies were issued by the National Flood Insurance Program in response to a lender's requirement for flood insurance. Under FEMA's rules, homeowners can request a refund of their final flood insurance premium paid for the policy year in which FEMA revises its maps.

    The L.A. river project is being completed several years ahead of its original schedule because Congress (due in large part to advocacy by LB Congressman Steve Horn) appropriated as much construction money as the Corps of Engineers and L.A. County said they could use each year.

    Getting the House, Senate and President to approve this was an annual legislative obstacle course. Although Horn credits bipartisan support from other House members, local officials and neighborhood activists, Horn pressed House committee members, then the full House, to approve spending the maximum amount the river-levee builders could use.

    These votes were not sometimes difficult in a budget balancing Congress. The LACDA funding level Horn sought was more than proposed by the Clinton White House budget. Projects sought by other House members competed for a limited amount of money.

    Each year Horn successfully persuaded the House of Representatives to go along with his LACDA maximum funding requests. On several occasions, the Senate vote for a lower funding level than the House approved, triggering a high stakes battle to persuade a House-Senate conference committee to include the higher House-voted LACDA level in the final bill.

    Last year, Cong. Horn navigated through a legislative minefield after former President Clinton vetoed an Energy & Water Development appropriations bill which included the crucial L.A. river completion money. (The veto had nothing to do with LACDA, stemming from a squabble over projects on the Upper Missouri and lower Mississippi.)

    The House voted to override Clinton's veto, but the Senate did not attempt an override, meaning the bill (with the L.A. river completion money) died. However, funding was revived when the part of the bill that prompted the veto was removed and a fresh version of the bill was passed (including the L.A. river completion money.)

    During the multi-year process, LB neighborhood groups and activists, including the Los Altos Neighborhood Association (LANAS) and Wrigley Association, held overflow meetings that kept the issue in the spotlight.

    LB City Hall (city staff, Councilmembers and the Mayor) lobbied on Capitol Hill and with FEMA. An aggressive stance was taken by L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, the L.A. County Dept. of Public Works, working in concert with area cities (notably Lakewood) comprising the "LACDA Alliance." publisher Bill Pearl, who has followed FEMA's LB area proceedings since 1992, credited a combination of grassroots activism, pioneering use of the internet, and Congressional and government advocacy with the apparent approaching end of the flood tax, However, he cautioned:

    "It's not over till it's over. We must be vigilant to ensure ELB and NLB are promptly restored to their pre-July 1998 status when the L.A. river project is completed."

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