Towns in flood zones paying the price
By WILSON RING
The Associated Press | March 24,2014
ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, MARCH 24, 2014 AT 3 A.M. AND THEREAFTER - FILE - This March 10, 1992 aerial photo shows floodwaters from the North Branch of the Winooski River in downtown Montpelier, Vt. About 2,400 in Vermont, including more than 200 in Montpelier, are among the 1.1 million policyholders nationwide likely to see their federally subsidized flood insurance premiums rise, as government-backed insurance subsidies are scaled back, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the National Flood Insurance Program. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)
MONTPELIER — Much of downtown Montpelier is perched along the banks of the North Branch of the Winooski River, a waterway that has poured into buildings, forcing many homeowners to purchase flood insurance.
Now 242 Montpelier residents who receive subsidized federal flood insurance are among about 2,400 in Vermont and 1.1 million nationwide likely to see their federally subsidized flood insurance premiums rise, according to a review of federal data by The Associated Press.
President Barack Obama signed a law Friday putting the brakes on a 2012 overhaul that aimed to shore up the National Flood Insurance Program by requiring policyholders to begin paying risk-based rates, but the measure merely delays the premium increases.
Homeowners could pay up to 18 percent more annually until switching to a risk-based rate while business owners and those who own vacation homes will see their rates rise no less than 25 percent each year until their premiums reach rates matching what building elevation surveys indicate is the true risk of flooding.
Montpelier has been a magnet for floodwaters for years. In 1992, an ice jam on the Winooski River backed water up into buildings along the river. There have been numerous smaller floods over the years.
Montpelier building owner Steve Everett said the flood insurance on one of his State Street buildings went up from $2,600 to about $4,400. He’s managed to offset much of the increase with energy efficiencies and other savings.
“It’s a pain in the neck,” Everett said. “It’s not killing me, but I’m not making as much as I’d like to. I’m sending it to the federal government.”
Since the city joined the program, Montpelier property owners have been paid $3.1 million for 252 claims. Property owners paid $572,000 in premiums last year.
Between 1978 and 2010, Vermont property owners received about $8 million in flood insurance claim payments. In 2011, after spring flooding on Lake Champlain, inland flooding in May and Tropical Storm Irene in August, the state received $62.9 million, said Rob Evans, the state flood plain manager in the Agency of Natural Resources Watershed Management Division.
In Barre, where the 188 claims of flooding from the overflowing Jail and Stevens branches of the Winooski are the second most in the state, about 219 property owners face flood insurance increases.
The community that has received the most flood insurance payments is Waterbury, which was devastated when the Winooski overflowed during Irene and flooded much of the community. There have been $4.4 million paid on 62 claims in Waterbury, 51 of those in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.
None of the Waterbury claims were paid to the state for damage to the state office complex, now being rebuilt with the help of private flood insurance that is no longer available to the state, said Evans.