At today’s meeting, the commissioners discussed the program’s next phase, in which Susquehanna Township-based Tetra Tech will work with the county to catalogue and assess each of the 19 municipalities’ flood plain management activities. Later this year they will work with the county to assist municipalities with preparing their applications to the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) Community Rating System (CRS). According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): “The NFIP CRS was implemented in 1990 as a voluntary program for recognizing and encouraging community floodplain management activities exceeding the minimum NFIP standards. Any community in full compliance with the minimum NFIP floodplain management requirements may apply to join the CRS.”
Depending on a municipality’s rating, its residents can see flood insurance premium discounts of between 5 and 45 percent. Should a municipality not be ready to submit an application at this point, the county program will look at what activities and floodplain management efforts are needed for a potential future application.
Municipalities that have signed up for the program include: Susquehanna, Swatara, Derry Middle Paxton, Londonderry, Lower Paxton, Lower Swatara, Upper Paxton, East Hanover, West Hanover, Halifax and Mifflin townships; and Steelton, Lykens, Paxtang, Royalton, Millersburg, Highspire, Hummelstown, and Halifax boroughs. Considering joining is Middletown and Harrisburg, which is already enrolled in the rating system and whose residents receive a 20 percent discount.
Federal disaster relief money is being used to help municipalities with the rating program and for flood mitigation projects. Last year the county completed mapping the flood risk along the Susquehanna, which can be used an early warning system and help municipalities obtain a favorable federal risk rating. Similar mapping is planned for the Swatara Creek.
“Last year this board joined in the successfully lobbying Congress to repeal the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which in some cases would have caused premiums to surpass monthly mortgage payments,’’ said Commissioner Mike Pries. “But premiums will continue to rise, which is why we are committed to an ongoing program to assist communities in lessening their flood risk and help residents.’’
The issue of increased flood insurance premiums impacts all county residents because of the potential to reduce property values. Devaluing properties through rate hikes puts pressure on local governments and school districts to raise property taxes just to maintain current services.
“The residents we are helping are hard-working Dauphin County citizens, many of whom are already struggling to make their current mortgage payment,’’ said Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III. “If residents are forced from their homes because of rising premiums, it will devastate communities as much as any flood.’’
Among the $6 million in additional mitigation projects proposed to be funded through the county’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program a few of them may qualify for credit under FEMA’s CRS program. A few examples are:
• Swatara Township: Buying and then removing homes along Joyce Lane and in Lenker Manor that are frequently damaged by flooding.
• Derry Township: Heightening the levee and making storm sewer improvements around Java Avenue, which will remove some structures from the floodplain.
• Londonderry Township: Buying and removing certain properties that are frequently flooded.
• Hummelstown: Buying and removing certain properties in the Village Road area along the Swatara Creek.
For more information, please contact: Dauphin County Press Office