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Letter to FEMA, Army Corps Urges Early Collaboration On Flood Map Changes

Formal flood map revision process can occur when seawall half-built, but advance planning should begin now

Staten Island, NY – May 24, 2017….U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Congressman Dan Donovan, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Borough President James S. Oddo, and Minority Leader Steven Matteo today sent a joint letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urging early collaboration on seawall-related flood insurance reductions to maximize potential savings for homeowners.

FEMA, which runs the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), establishes insurance premiums based on flood risk. To determine flood risk, FEMA uses models to create flood maps showing the extent and depth of a 100-year flood. FEMA may adjust its flood maps to reflect reduced flood risk if a resiliency structure – such as a seawall – meets FEMA accreditation standards. In their letter, the lawmakers ask FEMA and the Army Corps to “work together to ensure the [seawall] can achieve FEMA accreditation, and ultimately flood insurance relief, without delay.”

“Years since the destructive force of Superstorm Sandy, Staten Island residents continue to be faced with the destructive force of expensive flood insurance premiums as well. With plans for the seawall now underway, Staten Island will soon be made stronger and more resilient than before, and that’s why we are calling on the feds to act now and make sure this project meets all necessary requirements for to deliver some flood insurance relief to homeowners,” said U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer.

 Congressman Dan Donovan said, “Coordination among the many layers of government working on this project has been effective thus far. But in addition to the physical protection the seawall will afford, flood insurance reductions are the most important outcome to local homeowners. We can’t take anything for granted – collaboration between FEMA and the Army Corps to accredit the seawall has to be seamless.”

“We want to make sure a seawall protects communities from rising seas, and also from rising flood insurance premiums,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “As storms grow more powerful and sea levels rise, homeowners and residents should have all the tools they need, including access to affordable flood insurance. FEMA accreditation for the Staten Island seawall is a critical step to help prepare for the future.”

Borough President James Oddo said, “The seawall is one of the most important projects for our borough’s future, which is why it is imperative that we get this right. Coordination between FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers will safeguard our shoreline from another natural disaster while also providing financial relief for residents. Many of the homeowners in the areas affected by this are still dealing with the effects of Sandy, and we need to do everything in our power to help them. Protecting our East Shore is a top priority, and I believe that encouraging these agencies to work together early on in the process gives all of us the best chance to ensure a successful project.”

“Once completed, the seawall promises to provide real protection for homeowners from disastrous storm surges and rising tides. But unless this project meets the standards necessary for FEMA accreditation so the flood maps can be revised, it will not protect homeowners from the coming financial disaster of sky-high flood insurance. It is crucial that federal agencies work together to ensure that happens, otherwise this wall will become a monument to futility,” said City Council Minority Leader Steven Matteo.

To reach FEMA accreditation standards for flood map revisions, the seawall must defend against at least a 100-year flood, as well as meet certain design, operation, and maintenance criteria. The Army Corps received approval of the Director’s Report for the project in 2016 and began project design earlier this year. The lawmakers are submitting their request for early collaboration now so FEMA and the Army Corps can ensure the seawall meets all of FEMA’s requirements well ahead of the formal map revision process.

Per federal law, FEMA can begin adjusting its flood maps for an accredited project when: 1) the full project cost has been authorized; 2) 60 percent of the project funds have been appropriated; 3) half of the project funds have been spent; and 4) the project is half complete. The project already meets the first two criteria.

The full text of the letter is below:

May 24, 2017


Col. David A. Caldwell

Commander, New York District

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

26 Federal Plaza

New York, New York 10278


Mr. Roy Wright

Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation

Federal Emergency Management Agency

500 C Street SW

Washington, DC 20472


Dear Colonel Caldwell and Deputy Associate Administrator Wright:


We write to you on behalf of the residents of Staten Island to urge the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to work together to ensure the South Shore of Staten Island Coastal Storm Risk Reduction project (the “East Shore Levee”) can achieve FEMA accreditation, and ultimately flood insurance relief, without delay.

As you know, Hurricane Sandy devastated the neighborhoods along the East Shore of Staten Island. The residents of Staten Island bore the brunt of this catastrophic storm not only in the form of destroyed homes and businesses, but also through devastating loss of life.  Years since the flood waters have receded, the threat of rising flood insurance premiums remains a threat to East Shore communities.

 The East Shore Levee will help to ensure the devastation Hurricane Sandy wrought on East Shore communities is not repeated. As representatives of Staten Island’s East Shore at the City and Federal level, we believe that flood risk reduction is not enough. The residents of the East Shore deserve relief from rising waters and rising flood insurance premiums. This is why we believe the USACE and FEMA must work in concert to ensure insurance premiums reflect reduced flooding risk that will result from the East Shore Levee.

 The residents of Staten Island’s East Shore have waited long enough for this critical infrastructure and the flood risk reduction it will bring. Originally authorized in 1993, the USACE approved the Director’s Report for this project 2016. This important milestone represents exciting momentum, but it is also represents a challenge to all levels of government. With many years to project completion, we must work at the City, State, and Federal level to ensure we are doing everything we can to ensure this project eases the burdens on Staten Island communities that have waited for decades to see this project completed. Ensuring East Shore residents see flood insurance premiums fall as their flood risks are reduced by the completion of the levee is a key workstream that lies ahead as we move forward with this critical project.

We commend the Army Corps for the expeditious manner in which it has undertaken this effort. We look forward to continued partnership between federal, state, and city governments as we seek to provide waterfront communities in Staten Island and throughout the New York City and New York State with the increased level of protection they need.

 Thank you for your consideration.