Congress authorized the creation of the National Flood Insurance Program, under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to lessen the financial impact of flood disasters on individuals, business, and all levels of government. That authorization is set to expire on May 31, and only Congress can provide the authority for continued funding of the program.

An effort is underway to attach a long-term National Flood Insurance Program reauthorization and reform legislation to bipartisan drug legislation in the Senate. Under the proposal now being negotiated, S. 1940, the Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2011, would be attached to S. 3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla, is making a push for prompt action on a long-term NFIP reauthorization, and he has the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Coburn is said to be fed up with short-term extensions based on empty promises of a future Senate vote.

The last obstacle to reauthorization is a demand by Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., to have Sec. 107 removed from the Senate bill, which would expand coverage requirements to “areas of residual risk” located behind levees, or near dams or other flood-control structures.

You read that right. If Senators Thad Cochran and Mark Pryor have their way, the reauthorized National Flood Insurance Program will not provide coverage for areas located behind levees, dams, or other flood-control structures. What’s Senator Cochran’s reason for trying to remove coverage for these areas? The flood-control systems in place are so good, that no insurance is needed. Seriously.

National Underwriter reports that:

[Senator] Cochran [said] Sec. 107 creates new flood-insurance coverage mandates on families and businesses that are already protected by strong levees and dams. "The blanket approach taken in the current bill should be changed in order to ensure fair treatment for those protected properties," [Senator] Cochran [said].

This approach is misguided. Matt Gannon, the assistant vice president for federal affairs at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies makes this point succinctly. “There are 30,000 miles of levees in the U.S. and they fail all the time. The current NFIP debt is actually as high as it is because of failed levees in New Orleans in 2005.” Gannon added, “I know that Arkansas has invested heavily in their levee system along the Mississippi, [b]ut to claim the levees will never fail, we think, gives people a false sense of security. It calls to mind the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic and the designer’s intentional shortage of lifeboats.”

Mr. Gannon is absolutely right, and if you own a property near a flood-control structure such as a levee or a dam, you should be very concerned about what Senators Cochran and Pryor are proposing. Feel free to voice your opinion directly with these Senators. You can find Senator Cochran’s contact information here and Senator Pryor’s contact information here.