Higgins Objects to FEMA Flood Maps For Niagara Falls
In a recent letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is calling on the agency to re-study the flood risk for Cayuga Island in Niagara Falls and reinstate the prior flood insurance map from 2010 until errors in the new map are addressed.
Higgins says the new assessment that mandates flood insurance for Cayuga Island residents is based on flawed methodology and erroneous assumptions. Higgins writes, “The imposition of the flood insurance mandate on Cayuga Island is unjustified. The level of the water lapping on the shores of this community is not dictated by unknowable forces of nature, but by technicians in power plant control rooms down the river working under the watchful eyes of a half dozen U.S., Canadian and international agencies. The re-imposition of this mandate on homeowners who have already paid a surveyor to file a letter of map amendment is particularly unacceptable.”
On May 5, 2021 new flood insurance rate maps (FIRMS) were adopted for the City of Niagara Falls. The new map alters the flood plain on Cayuga Island increasing the Base Flood Evaluation (BFE) by a foot or two. As a result, homeowners who previously had been relieved of the flood insurance mandate are newly subjected to it.
Higgins has been vocal in his criticism of FEMA flood maps for Western New York because they have not fairly or accurately represented flood risks, costing homeowners in the area financially each year due to flood insurance mandates. He argues that the basis for this mandate is unjustified and unacceptable, because the water level at Cayuga Island is not subject to natural fluctuations, rather it is managed by control stations operated by the New York Power Authority and Ontario Power Generation.
The flood plain has remained more or less unchanged from the 2010 map and Higgins argues that the BFE should remain the same unless there is some topographic change. Additionally, substantial construction was completed following flooding in 1955 and 1965 to mitigate flood risks on the island, ice booms are installed yearly, ice breaking operation are completed regularly and are on standby throughout the winter, and power plant operations have been modified several times to reduce the likelihood of flooding. The new flood maps do not account for this.
Congressman Higgins has a long history of contesting flood maps in Western New York, which mandates homeowners to obtain expensive flood insurance. A timeline of Higgins’ fight, which includes successfully removing thousands of homes from designated from flood zones can be found at https://higgins.house.gov/flood_zone_timeline.pdf.