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Comment by William R. Cumming
May 29, 2015 @ 7:31 am
This will be a long comment divided into many segments.
FORWARDS: I have seldom commented on this blog about the NFIP [National Flood Insurance Program] codified in the US Code at 42 U.S. Code Sections 4001 et seq.
THIS PROGRAM DOES NOT BELONG IN DHS OR FEMA AND HAS BEEN MISADMINISTERED FOR OVER TWO DECADES, BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER DHS.
It does have some relationship to resilience, and recovery but more about PREVENTION AND MITIGATION.
But the flooding in Texas has created the opportunity to explain the NFIP in some detail and why it should be moved out of FEMA and DHS.
May 29, 2015 @ 7:35 am
Let’s start with TEXAS:
This article is about the U.S. state.
State of Texas
Flag of Texas State seal of Texas
Nickname(s): The Lone Star State
State song(s): “Texas, Our Texas”
Map of the United States with Texas highlighted
Official language No official language
(see Languages spoken in Texas)
Spoken languages Predominantly English;
Spanish spoken by sizable minority
Largest city Houston
Largest metro Dallas–Fort Worth–Arlington
Area Ranked 2nd
– Total 268,581 sq mi
– Width 773 miles (1,244 km)
– Length 790 miles (1,270 km)
– % water 2.5
– Latitude 25°?50? N to 36°?30? N
– Longitude 93°?31? W to 106°?39? W
Population Ranked 2nd
– Total 27,695,284 (2015 est)
– Density 103.1/sq mi (40.8/km2)Ranked 26th
– Highest point Guadalupe Peak
8,751 ft (2667.4 m)
– Mean 1,700 ft (520 m)
– Lowest point Gulf of Mexico
Before statehood Republic of Texas
Admission to Union December 29, 1845 (28th)
Governor Greg Abbott (R)
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R)
Legislature Texas Legislature
– Upper house Senate
– Lower house House of Representatives
U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R)
Ted Cruz (R)
U.S. House delegation 25 Republicans,
11 Democrats (list)
– most of state Central: UTC ?6/?5
– tip of West Texas Mountain: UTC ?7/?6
Abbreviations TX, Tex. US-TX
Texas is the second most populous (after California) and the second largest of the 50 U.S. states (after Alaska) in the United States of America. Geographically located in the south central part of the country, Texas shares an international border with the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the south and borders the U.S. states of New Mexico to the west, Oklahoma to the north, Arkansas to the northeast, and Louisiana to the east. Texas has an area of 268,820 square miles (696,200 km2) and a growing population of over 26.9 million residents (July 2014).
Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest in the United States, while San Antonio is the second largest in the state and seventh largest in the United States. Dallas–Fort Worth and Greater Houston are the eighth and tenth largest United States metropolitan areas, respectively. Other major cities include El Paso and Austin—the state capital. Texas is nicknamed the Lone Star State to signify Texas as a former independent republic, and as a reminder of the state’s struggle for independence from Mexico. The “Lone Star” can be found on the Texas state flag and on the Texas state seal today. The origin of the state name, Texas, is from the word, “Tejas”, which means ‘friends’ in the Caddo language.
Due to its size and geologic features such as the Balcones Fault, Texas contains diverse landscapes that resemble both the American South and Southwest. Although Texas is popularly associated with the Southwestern deserts, less than 10 percent of the land area is desert. Most of the population centers are located in areas of former prairies, grasslands, forests, and the coastline. Traveling from east to west, one can observe terrain that ranges from coastal swamps and piney woods, to rolling plains and rugged hills, and finally the desert and mountains of the Big Bend.
The term “six flags over Texas”, as can be seen in the Grand Prairie–based large national and international amusement park operator Six Flags, came from the several nations that had ruled over the territory. Spain was the first European country to claim the area of Texas. France held a short-lived colony in Texas. Mexico controlled the territory until 1836 when Texas won its independence, becoming an independent Republic. In 1845, Texas joined the United States as the 28th state. The state’s annexation set off a chain of events that caused the Mexican–American War in 1846. A slave state, Texas declared its secession from the United States in early 1861, and officially joined the Confederate States of America on March 2 of the same year. After the consequent Civil War and the restoration of its representation in the federal government, Texas entered a long period of economic stagnation.
One Texas industry that thrived after the Civil War was cattle. Due to its long history as a center of the industry, Texas is associated with the image of the cowboy. The state’s economic fortunes changed in the early 20th century, when oil discoveries initiated an economic boom in the state. With strong investments in universities, Texas developed a diversified economy and high tech industry in the mid-20th century. As of 2010 it shares the top of the list of the most Fortune 500 companies with California at 57. With a growing base of industry, the state leads in many industries, including agriculture, petrochemicals, energy, computers and electronics, aerospace, and biomedical sciences. Texas has led the nation in export revenue since 2002 and has the second-highest gross state product.
3.2 Greenhouse gases
4.1 Pre-European era
4.5 Civil War and Reconstruction (1860–1900)
4.6 20th century to present
5 Government and politics
5.1 State government
5.3 Administrative divisions
5.4 Criminal law
6.2 Agriculture and mining
7.1 Race and ethnicity
7.2 Cities and towns
8.1 Texas self perception
9.1 Higher education
10.1 Medical research
13 See also
16 External links
The name Texas, based on the Caddo word tejas meaning “friends” or “allies”, was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in East Texas.
During the Spanish colonial rule, the area was officially known as the Nuevo Reino de Filipinas: La Provincia de Texas. Antonio Margil de Jesús was known to be the first person to use the name in a letter to the Viceroy of Mexico on July 20, 1716. The name was not popularly used in daily speech but often appeared in legal documents until the end of the 1800s.
May 29, 2015 @ 7:40 am
A listing of disaster outlays nation-wide and paid claims under the NFIP would reveal the importance of TEXAS to demands on the federal fisc.
See today’s post on Claire Rubin’s RECOVERY DIVA!
Prediction: If STORM SANDY and HURRICANE KATRINA did not cause and existential crisis for the NFIP this series of storms in Texas will do so.
But before this analysis we must go back in time at the beginning of the NFIP and even before!
May 29, 2015 @ 7:56 am
The NFIP was enacted in 1968 and the first policy issued in 1969.
It first Administrator was George K. Bernstein, a Presidential appointee but not Senate confirmed. His prior job was as Deputy Insurance Commissioner for NY State. A lawyer used to being a regulator and used to dealing with politicians in Albany he soon adjusted to Washington unlike some other former state nemployees [governors?]!
The concept of flood insurance derived from the writings, teaching, and thesis of Dr. Gilbert White, PhD (geography) from the University of Chicago and a FDR WH staffer. Dr. White postulated that human adjustment to flood plains should rely not on structural protection works, levees and flood walls both of which always failed either for exceedence of design protection or poor maintenance.
And of course this concept directly challenged the USACOE the political favorite of the Congress for over a century and even now to some extent.
May 29, 2015 @ 8:18 am
GKB lobbied the NFIP legislative proposal through Congress. The concept had been tried before after Hurricane Betsy in 1956 but without mitigation and flood plain management requirements [land use] all recognized that it would make matters worse and create what the insurance world calls a MORAL HAZARD. Thus, the 1956 flood insurance law while enacted remained unfunded.
The first crisis for the experimental NFIP was TROPICAL STORM AGNES. Why?
With few NFIP policies in place, in particular in Pennsylvania, the NFIP seemed not muc of a factor. But President Nixon had issued Reorganization Plan No.1 of 1973 to Congress. The Plan broke up OEP and distributed the federal disaster operations to HUD.
I arrive at HUD July 1st 1974 from the Treasury Department to the GC’s Office in HUD and received two organizations as clients, FDAA and FIA both unwanted clients by anyone else.
GKB’s FIA had an FTE base of 24 most of whom acted as Special Assistants to GKB. If memory serves [probably does not] Tom Dunn at FDAA had about 74 FTE in Washington and regional ops in the 10 federasl regions. FIA had no regional structure but thanks to George’s Richard W. Krimm,
his only subordinate SES, and unusually accomplished cadre of 10 people were recruited to be an FIA outpost in the individual HUD 10 federal regions.
Carla Hills was the Secretary of HUD when I arrived and George Elliott her GC and my immediate boss, Kay Sauerbrunn [a former Texas sheriff].
The bottom line is that there was in existence in 1972 a statutory prohibition on any community receiving NFIP insurance unless the community participated in the NFIP.
If this prohibition had been enforced, Pennsylvania among several other states, would have received few disaster funds.
A political compromise was reached with enactment of the Flood Disaster protection Act of 1973 and enactment of the Disaster Relief Act of 1974 [Public Law 93-288. The sanctions both both the NFIP and disaster programs were redesigned but in complementary fashion.
May 29, 2015 @ 8:24 am
Even those revised sanctions were too much for US Senator Tom Eagleton who got through modifications of them largely on behalf of Cape Giradeu a small city. Cape Giradeau of course even though protected by levees has been under water many times since 1977. And the Missippi River is totally under federal levees southof St. Louis and the Missouri south and east of Cape Giradeu.
May 29, 2015 @ 8:27 am
So what is the game and why focus on Texas. Well for one thing the Constitutionality of the NFIP was upheld under Article I Section 8 [the so-called Tax and Spend clause] in a US District Court for the District of Columbia opinion in TEXAS LANDOWNERS v. U.S. and affirmed without decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
May 29, 2015 @ 8:30 am
The fundamental principle of the NFIP was that new construction and existing construction would be eligible for NFIP insurance but ONLY IF NEW CONSTRUCTION AFTER THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF NFIP MAPS WAS REGULATED BY THE COMMUNITY.
May 29, 2015 @ 8:39 am
While much more to follow over the next several days all must recognize that in the STATE OF TEXAS, as in the areas impacted by STORM SANDY, the communities largely contested NFIP flood maps even though for a number of reasons and currently and historically many of those flood maps were often 50% inaccurate as to the 1% annual flood exceedance interval (so-called 100 year flood)! Thus, as not shown as flood prone many impacted by current flooding in Texas and Storm Sandy were NOT SHOWN AS FLOOD PRONE AND DID NOT PURCHASE INSURANCE.
In NOLA during and before Hurricane Katrina, fundamental distrust of federal, state, local [including levee districts] by citizens and residents many purchased NFIP insurance behind levees and flood walls that failed for very cheap prices. Yes the Pirates are smarter in NOLA.
Comment by claire rubin
May 29, 2015 @ 8:55 am
Related to Bill’s comments is the blog posting I did today:
May 29, 2015 @ 11:23 am
I make the claim that for Southern Louisiana and Gulf Coast states the most important federal program is the NFIP. Why?
First poor people never buy property/casualty insurance or seldom do. But those with improved real estate in the Gulf Coast whether for rental income or occupancy as primary residence all seem to recognize that if you look at NOAA’s hurricane storm tracks since 1880 there is no portion of the Gulf Coast hurricane proof [as Lee County Florida used to advertise].
Second, there are vagaries to federal DISASTER RELIEF WHICH IS FILTERED [RIPPED OFF?] BY STATES AND THEIR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. An insurance policy is more certain.
May 29, 2015 @ 11:42 am
WHAT WAS THE KEY FEDERAL POLICY OBJECTIVE IN ADOPTION OF THE NFIP?
That key objective was to reduce FREE FEDERAL DISASTER OUTLAYS. Has this happened? NO, NO, NO!
Federal disaster outlays have skyrocketed even in the face of the NFIP! Again why?
1. The ATM that is the federal disaster relief program is largely an automatic ATM for state and local governments.
2. Federal disaster administrators positively hate mitigation and prevention.
3. The USACOE!
4. There is almost no in house technical expertise either in FEMA DISASTER PROGRAMS OR THE NFIP!
5. There is almost no budget or financial expertise in FEMA disaster programs or the NFIP!
6. All reform efforts since inception for the NFIP have largely tried to undercut floodplain management [land use] enforcement.
7. The FEMA maps have become the subject of many kinds of corruption including bribes of FEMA contactor staff.
8. One FIA administrator was named as an unindicted co-conspirator with local developers.
9. The original riverine/inland mapping effort has even with problems been to higher standards than coastal mapping. NOAA should be given all flood mapping for all coastal counties.
10. The mapping program is enforcement but exemptions have created probles.
Did you know FEMA does not map as floodplains water courses where flows are less than 800 CFS? Guess the flowage of most Texas bayous and streams?
11. A brilliant attorney, Carol Dinkins, Esq., of Vinson & Elkins helped the NFIP immensely by acting ethically even when representing Texas developers. Later the Assistant Attorney General for the US for Environment and Natural Resources she was a huge help to me in establishing an active subrogation. That program laegely ended when she left DoJ and I was appointed to defend FEMA from being terminated on grounds of National Security. Carol also helped forge the AMICUS BRIEF EFFORTS TO HELP STATES AND THEIR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN STATE COURT SUITS ENFORCING FLOOD PLAIN MANAGEMENT RESTRICTIONS.
May 29, 2015 @ 11:45 am
12. And finally the almost total incomprehension of NFIP administrators of the fact that the NFIP was not really an insurance program but a land use restriction program was enforced by several FIA administrators being confirmed by the Senate by guess where TEXAS!
May 29, 2015 @ 11:47 am
The bottom line is that disaster outlays in this Texas flooding will large reinforce simple and gross negligence and perhaps criminality by the States and their local officials and land developers and builders.
May 29, 2015 @ 12:02 pm
MOTHER NATURE DOES NOT GRANT VARIANCES!
May 30, 2015 @ 9:33 am
Floods and droughts twin sisters or heads and tails or whatever. But the highest recorded rainfall in the Lower 48 in a 36 hour period was 39 inches in Nelson County Virginia as remnants of Hurricane Camille  stalled over the Blue Ridge mountains and many slopes collapsed to bare rocks.
Deaths counted 256 but perhaps many more in the hills and hollars of Virginny.
Comment by Citizen Joe
May 30, 2015 @ 8:45 pm
“The greatest 24-hour rainfall amount in the world is nearly 72 inches”
Alvin, Texas, was deluged by 43 inches of rain in 24 hours from July 24-25, 1979, setting an all-time record 24-hour rainfall for the U.S.
The torrential rain fell as Tropical Storm Claudette made landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border before stalling right over Alvin.
The 24-hour rainfall in Alvin may also be the record for the world’s greatest 24-hour rainfall occurring over flat terrain, according to the Atlantic Hurricane Season Summary of 1979 released by the National Hurricane Center.
Other locations in Texas were also inundated by more than 30 inches of rain from Claudette.
This rainfall map from Tropical Storm Claudette shows a bulls-eye of rain over southeastern Texas with amounts of over 30 inches. Courtesy of NOAA.
The greatest 24-hour rainfall amount in the world is nearly 72 inches at Foc-Foc, La Reunion Island, an island located in the Indian Ocean to the east of Madagascar, Jan. 7-8, 1966. The rain was unleashed by a tropical cyclone churning in the Indian Ocean. The mountainous terrain across the island rises to as high as 10,070 feet above sea level on the Piton des Neiges volcano.
See: http://www.bluehill.org — oldest weather observatory since 1885 in keeping hourly climatological recordings in the Boston area and while having recorded the second highest wind gust (US) and has encountered Mother Nature, nothing like the totals referenced in Texas!
May 30, 2015 @ 8:47 pm
….and while we are all concerned about Mother Nature and often fail to look back in weather records in the 1700’s and 1800’s, today unfortunately when it becomes a discussion and readings about Homeland Security, I just cannot take myself away from the abuse now pointed to discrediting the first amendment and its intent by our forefathers quite applicable today! How dare you?
Comment by simple solar
June 1, 2015 @ 4:53 pm
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June 2, 2015 @ 7:20 am
Should it be of interest to PREPAREDNESS NUTS like myself that movie SAN ANDREAS topped the weekend movie box office?
June 3, 2015 @ 2:52 pm
USA FREEDOM ACT expected to be signed by President.
To some extent it modifies but does flatly prohibit federal surveillance as it currently exists. Once signed perhaps I can get a copy to read.
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