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Concerns on the rise over flood insurance rates

Mike Desmond/WBFO

Some residents of the Old First Ward and the Valley potentially face thousands of dollars a year in federal flood insurance costs. On Tuesday night, a packed and angry crowd was in the Valley Community Association to oppose the mandated flood insurance which is likely to take effect soon.

Andrew Martin, FEMA's Region Two risk and analysis branch chief, explained the changes. 

"If that structure, if that house or business, whatever it is, a double, triple, multi-family, if it's in that one percent, a 100-year flood plain, they would be required to carry flood insurance unless they bought it (the building) outright in cash."

Valley Community Association Executive Director Peg Overdorf was among the outraged saying, "FEMA is a money grab." She wondered how low-income residents will be able to afford insurance premiums as high as $3,000.

Many residents agreed with Overdorf's assessment of the federal agency.

"I've lived in the Valley now for 35 years and the only time that I got flooded was when the Buffalo River come up through the sewer system, every time that the ice jam jammed up," said Jim Rogers, recalled once as a child "swimming on Hamburg Street when it flooded."

According to federal figures quoted by Martin, the program has paid out around $1 million in claims over the last 30 years.


Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.