Murkowski pushes for another FEMA map re-do

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, pushed again for the Department of Homeland Security to take a look at how the Federal Emergency Management Agency is updating its maps and suggested they go back to the drawing board.

Murkowski spoke about several issues affecting Alaska on Thursday at a Senate Appropriations subcommitee meeting on the DHS Fiscal Year 2013 budget.

“I have people all over my state just upset about the FEMA flood plans and the maps,” she said. “Folks from Juneau to Fairbanks to the Mat-Su Borough are saying we don’t understand this. We don’t know if we need to get a LOMAH or a LOMAR. We don’t understand how we could have gone from a situation where we weren’t close to any flood plain, and now apparently we are in jeopardy. We have to hire a civil engineer to basically move through this process. Based on what I’ve heard from folks back home, my suggestion is you go back to the drawing board on this wholesale reform but really focus on understandability and customer service. I don’t know what kind of heat you’re getting from other corners of the country, but it sure has caused a lot of consternation.”

LOMAH stands for Letter of Map Amendment and LOMAR stands for Letter of Map Revision. It’s a process that can be quite expensive for individual citizens to appeal to FEMA, showing their home or property is not actually in the flood plain.

Juneau citizens pointed out many errors and inconsistencies in the way FEMA drafted the new maps around Juneau. Some cases show one home in the flood plain, while its neighbor — at a lower elevation — is not. For more on Juneau’s reaction to the maps, see bit.ly/r1K1ZL.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano agreed there are concerns coming from across the country about the maps.

“We are working under a statutory program and mandate, so our flexibility is limited,” she said. “You know the overall goal is to have in the country a reasonable set of requirements for when you are in a flood plain and when you are not for all kinds of purposes.”

Murkowski agreed that the intent is reasonable.

“So we are working with communities and I will go back to FEMA and make sure that we’re looking specifically at some of the communities you mentioned,” Napolitano said.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., chairwoman of the committee, said the statutory program and mandate Napolitano is referring to hasn’t been reauthorized — only temporarily.

“(That is the) National Flood Insurance Program, which has not been authorized for quite a while,” she said.

Landrieu said the reason it keeps getting a temporary extension is because of the flood map revision issue.

“I want to do a hearing on this, Senator,” Landrieu said. “I appreciate how problematic it is … it is a major problem for our country.”

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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