WASHINGTON — Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is encouraged by progress by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to establish an independent review process that communities can use to contest flood map disputes.
FEMA briefed congressional offices on the parameters of its plan to create a Flood Map Scientific Resolution Panel system for communities to appeal disputed base flood elevations recommended by FEMA for proposed Flood Insurance Rate Maps.
Creation of the scientific resolution panels is based on an amendment sponsored by Cochran that would direct FEMA to apply to the flood map process an arbitration panel model inspired by one created by Congress following Hurricane Katrina to resolve disaster relief disputes with local communities.
“The agency seems to be sincere in its effort to address the legitimate concerns raised by those who will be affected by proposed new flood maps, but there is more work to be done to modify the laws that now bind FEMA’s interaction with communities,” Cochran said.
Mississippi communities along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, in the Delta region and throughout the state have been participating in the FEMA’s flood map modernization program, and many have raised concerns about the process.
Under the plan outlined Friday, FEMA will establish a process for communities to appeal to an independent review panel when direct FEMA-to-community consultations falter. A five-member scientific resolution panel, three selected by appellant communities, that would be formed from a predetermined list of qualified and independent experts. The panel would have a set timeline to review scientific and technical information submitted by communities to challenge FEMA findings.
FEMA expects to implement the scientific resolution panel process on Nov. 1. FEMA Flood Map Scientific Resolution Panel plan details are available here.
In June, Cochran and Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced a series of amendments to authorize the creation of arbitration panels to resolve disputes between the Federal government and local communities. In addition to establishing panels, the legislation also addressed reimbursements to communities for successful appeals.