Levee Repairs May Leave Florida Residents Flooded in Insurance Costs

The East Coast Protection Levee – stretching from Okechobee to Florida Bay – is in need of repairs, which could spell financial troubles for individuals paying high home insurance rates in the area. After Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans in ruins in 2005, standards were set in place to keep residents near any levees safe. For those in the Florida area, not getting the repairs could mean a heap of long-term trouble.

The levee itself is 105 miles long and helps stop the Everglades from flooding South Florida communities. It’s been doing its job for 60 years, butafter Tropical Storm Fay came through last year, some vulnerable sections in Browardand Miami-Dade counties were exposed.Also, a 28-mile long area in Palm Beach County recently underwent a federal safety inspection and was found to be “minimally acceptable.” As a result, if improvements aren’t made within two years, the stretch will receive a failing ranking.

All of this simply means that Florida is going to have to kick it into high gear in order to get the levee back to acceptable standards. In the meantime, residents may be susceptible to stricter insurance regulations to cover the costs associated with the levee breaking prior to repairs being made.

In South Florida, it is usually required that a homeowner purchases flood insurance if they are in an area that is at risk of flooding. In these at-risk areas, insurance can be pretty costly – sometimes as much as $400 a year more than in areas not marked as at-risk. Unfortunately, if the levees don’t meet the appropriate standards, more of South Florida could be marked as at-risk, requiring that more residents topurchase flood insurance. But what’s worseis that they would likely have the pay the at-risk rate.

There is a short-term solution to the problem, however. It will take a while for all of the problem levees to be identified. At that point, it will take another 18 months to change the flood zone maps. Those homeowners who think they might end up in the high-risk area can buy insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program at reduced rates until the maps are finished and approved, which can save a lot of money and still make sure their homes are covered.