Opinions and Speeches

By U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. and U.S. Rep Earl L. "Buddy" Carter, R-Ga.-01

Coastal Georgia is among the world’s most beautiful places. Moss-covered live oaks, sandy beaches, farms, historic buildings and swampy lowlands all contribute to the picturesque landscape that stretches from South Carolina to Florida. More than 400,000 acres of salt marsh, 100 miles of coastline, 14 barrier islands, and nine estuaries attract wildlife, residents and visitors alike. Unfortunately, when these bodies of water swell due to natural disasters, there can be devastating consequences, including heavy flooding.

Flooding is the most common form of natural disaster and ranks among the most expensive for residents and local government. Coastal Georgia, with its low-lying areas close to the Atlantic Ocean, is at increased risk for flooding. In recent years, the entire Southeast region of the state has felt the costly effects of natural disasters, including Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017. In the wake of these and other disasters, residents throughout Georgia have been forced to reckon with the risk of damaging floods, regardless of their proximity to the coastline and swamplands.

Since 1968, citizens in Georgia have used the National Flood Insurance Program as a resource to offset repair and restoration costs caused by flooding. Nearly 5 million homes and families nationwide have been insured under the program — many of those in Southeast Georgia. Unfortunately, more than a decade ago in 2004, funds for the program diminished and debt started to accumulate. In September of 2017, the program reached its borrowing limit from the U.S. Treasur

With the rate of increasing debt and high frequency of severe storms, the need to address the issues plaguing the National Flood Insurance Program is more urgent than ever. Americans understand that free market solutions bring more competition and more choices for consumers, resulting in lower prices and better products. Expanding the flood insurance market to more privately owned issuers could provide more options for homeowners in Brunswick, St. Marys, Kingsland, Hinesville, Waycross, Jesup, Savannah and other cities across our state and nation. We are working to develop a viable path forward so that this essential program can continue assisting millions of Americans without pushing our nation further into debt.

Congress is working to empower both local governments and residents when negotiating flood insurance rates. In doing so, we must overcome the various obstacles our communities face. For instance, coastal communities are often treated unfairly and are over-charged simply due to geographical location. While flooding tends to occur at higher rates along the coastline, our barrier islands offer a unique protection from storm surge. Additionally, despite the proactive measures our communities have taken to mitigate flood risk, local residents are still charged exorbitant fees for flood protections. We are working to make the program more fair by factoring these considerations into the costs of flood insurance.

Likewise, local governments are often forced to adhere to federal flood maps and standards when determining who can obtain flood insurance as well as the rates they pay. We need to bridge the gap between federal and local government by allowing localities, using their own resources and more accurate technology, to develop their own flood maps as alternatives to National Flood Insurance Program maps.

We are working to improve the National Flood Insurance Program to give Georgians the peace of mind that they will be covered in the event of a natural disaster. We understand how important it is that Congress continues to address and implement policies that protect some of the most beautiful areas in the United States, and the world.

Senator Johnny Isakson is the senior U.S. senator from Georgia. Representative Earl L. “Buddy” Carter represents the First District of Georgia in the United States House of Representatives.