The fight over a costly federal flood insurance requirement for Lakewood homes and businesses, previously beaten back in 2002, reared its head again recently when legislation began moving in the U.S. Senate to require flood insurance on federally-backed mortgages in areas across the nation that are behind levees and other flood control measures, even those with recently updated 100-year flood protection (such as Lakewood and communities along the Los Angeles River).
The City of Lakewood got to work fast, firing off letters and phone calls to the city’s U.S. Senators and Congresswoman. Senator Diane Feinstein co-sponsored an amendment favorable to Lakewood and our region. Congresswoman Linda Sanchez continued her long-standing support for Lakewood’s position and voted for a House version of the bill that did not require flood insurance for communities like Lakewood with 100-year protection already in place.
Fortunately in the end, the final bill that passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Obama did not include the flood insurance requirement for communities with 100-year flood protection.
“The City of Lakewood is always good about speaking up quickly and clearly on issues that affect Lakewood residents,” said Congresswoman Sanchez. “I appreciated working with the city again on this issue to make sure that we had a positive resolution on this matter for our region and our nation.”
Long-time Lakewood residents may have thought the fight over whether to require residential flood insurance in our region was settled once and for all in 2002. At that time, a $210 million, multi-year project was completed to raise 21 miles of levees and install extra walls 2-to-5-feet high along the lower Los Angeles River and Rio Hondo.
The new construction provided protection to hold back a 100-year flood—the level of security that negates the need for flood insurance on federally-backed mortgages. Flood insurance would have cost the average Lakewood homeowner about $300 a year.
The City of Lakewood helped form a coalition of cities in 1991 that worked with the county and Army Corps of Engineers to speed up work on that flood protection project. Lakewood leaders worked the halls of Congress and the State Capitol to prevent misguided legislation that would have delayed or even prevented flood protection improvements, which would have exposed Lakewood residents to the threat of catastrophic flooding and more years of federal flood insurance requirements.
All that work paid off in 2002 when the flood control project was finalized and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a “Letter of Map Revision” for Lakewood and other communities and lifted the mandate that lenders require mortgage borrowers in the flood zone to have flood insurance.
The proposed insurance requirement in 2012 seemed to Lakewood leaders and others like an effort to bring in extra funding for FEMA’s insurance fund (depleted by recent disasters) on the backs of regions around the country, like Lakewood and southeastern Los Angeles County, that have modern flood control construction in place.