Flood insurance in jeopardy

HONOLULU — Kauai lawmakers want to make sure the island’s residents aren’t prohibited from participating in the National Flood Insurance Program.

So they’re throwing their weight behind House Bill 1418, which remedies a law passed in 2013 that had the consequence of the state falling out of compliance with the NFIP’s state floodplain management requirements.

The 2013 law’s intent, according to Rep. Jimmy Tokioka, (D-15, Wailua, Lihue), was to relieve Hawaii’s agriculture and aquaculture industries from the existing building codes and permitting processes.

Putting Hawaii’s compliance with NFIP requirements on shaky ground was an unintended consequence, Tokioka said in a statement from his office.

“If Hawaii is suspended from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the loss of flood insurance coverage and federal disaster assistance would be devastating for the entire state,” Tokioka said.

There are about 60,000 policies with more than $13.2 billion in flood risk covered by NFIP in Hawaii.

If the state doesn’t meet the NFIP requirements by July 31, 2017, FEMA will start suspending flood-insurance sales in Hawaii.

“It’s important to pass this measure because the state’s ability to secure flood insurance is in jeopardy,” said Rep. Nadine Nakamura, (D-14, Kapaa-Hanalei).

“To the credit of the County of Kauai Building Division, farmers were required to comply with the national flood insurance requirements. This was not the case in other counties,” Nakamura said.

The bill is supported by legislators concerned about non-compliance with FEMA’s NFIP, said to Rep. Dee Morikawa, (D-16, Waimea-Kalaheo).

“I have not been involved with the committees that have heard or will be hearing the bill, but its movement through the house should be no problem, since there is a lot of support from many agencies,” Morikawa said. “I have heard that without this amendment, flood insurance rates could drastically increase.”

Tokioka pointed out Kauai has experienced two of the strongest hurricanes in Hawaii history, and the island’s people need to have access to flood insurance.

Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992 caused about $1.8 billion in damage and ‘Iwa in 1982 caused about $312 million in damage.

“We (who) live on Kauai have experienced, firsthand, what natural disasters can bring,” Tokioka said. “None of us want to live through another ‘Iniki without the assistance of our federal government and funding.”


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