Many Wisconsin Communities Dropped Federal Flood Insurance

June 17, 2008

About 50 Wisconsin communities, including flood-damaged Lake Delton and La Valle near the Wisconsin Dells resort area, have dropped out of the federal flood insurance program, making residents ineligible for federal aid, state and federal officials said.

Residents in communities lacking the insurance won’t receive federal disaster assistance even if a federal disaster is declared in their area, said Philip Clark, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency regional office in Chicago.

But, communities can rejoin the program within six months of a disaster declaration, allowing residents to file claims for past damage, said Roxanne Gray, state hazard mitigation officer with Wisconsin Emergency Management.

The state will work with FEMA and local communities to get them back into the program, Gray said, adding that that process could take several months.

Along with qualifying residents for disaster assistance, the National Flood Insurance Program lets home and business owners buy federally subsidized flood insurance that pays out even if no federal disaster is declared after a flood, Clark said.

Homeowners in frequently flooded areas that dropped out of the program may find it extremely expensive or impossible to get private flood insurance, Gray said.

While most flood-prone communities belong to the federal program, about one in 10 opt out, said Larry Larson, executive director of the National Association of State Floodplain Managers in Madison. Officials often worry joining the program will deter development by raising building costs and limiting construction in high-risk areas, he said.

The La Valle Village Board voted recently to petition to rejoin the program, board president Andrew Johnson said.

Lake Delton officials are working with the state Department of Natural Resources and FEMA to resolve a dispute over the elevation of its floodplain so it can rejoin as well, village attorney Richard Cross said.

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