WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Commission is hoping federal lawmakers can prevent a new law from raising flood insurance premiums for residents far above what they can afford.
Commission President Tim Ennis said during Tuesday's meeting that a federal law passed in 2012 to cut costs for the National Flood Insurance Program is expected to mean major insurance hikes for residents in designated flood zones, especially in Wellsburg.
Included in Congress' federal transportation bill, the Biggerts-Waters Act was introduced in response to millions of dollars in claims filed by home and business owners affected by such major disasters as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
Because of the costs, most insurance providers don't offer flood insurance, so the National Insurance Flood Program was established in 1968, and many of the policies have been subsidized by the federal government.
But the Brooke County Commissioners are among many public officials around the nation, including Wheeling Council, who are hearing from residents who say their insurance premiums will rise drastically when the law is implemented.
Ennis said a resident told him he currently pays $1,200 per year for flood insurance but is expecting an increase up to $10,000.
He said he believes comparatively lower risks faced by property owners in Wellsburg's flood plain and other areas should be considered.
"We have floods, but usually houses aren't lifted off their foundations and businesses haven't been washed away like with some hurricanes," Ennis said.
He applauded local representatives to the West Virginia Legislature for their plans to adopt a resolution urging Congress to revisit the Biggerts-Waters Act.
Ennis said the commission will do the same through a letter to the state's representatives in Congress.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-Wheeling, and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., are among many in Congress who support the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act.
The legislation would delay changes in the flood insurance program overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency until the agency can complete an affordability study required by the Biggerts-Waters Act and measures to minimize hardship for homeowners can be identified.
A group has established a Facebook page at "West Virginia repeal the Biggert-Waters Act of 2012."
At its own website, at www.fema.gov/flood-insurance-reform-act-2012, FEMA offers information to property owners who may be affected.
In other business, the commission appointed Wayne Buxton of Wellsburg to the Brooke Hills Park board. That leaves one more vacancy on the board, which meets at at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month at the park's clubhouse.
There also is a vacant seat on the county's building commission, which was formed to pursue improvements to county facilities and is involved in the proposed expansion of the county courthouse. The board meets at at 5 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month at the courthouse.
Letters of interest should be submitted to the office of County Clerk Sylvia Benzo.