Congressman John Garamendi

Representing the 3rd District of California
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Congressman Garamendi Joins FEMA & Local Leaders for Regional Learning Tour on Flood Insurance

March 10, 2014
Press Release

WOODLAND, CA – Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), a Member of the House Agriculture and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, today joined Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton, CA), Roy Wright, Deputy Associate Administrator for Mitigation, Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), FEMA staff, county supervisors, water agency representatives, and local stakeholders for a tour of Northern California locations impacted by recent federal flood insurance changes.

The day included extensive meetings on flood insurance reform discussing where it is working and where it is not. Changes to flood mapping and state and federal laws limiting construction and access to insurance for agricultural buildings in flood plains are putting a financial burden on both homeowners and vital California farms. The tour included a visit to an historic home and winery in the Delta facing steep increases in their flood insurance premiums. The tour also included a visit to the Lower Cache Creek Settling Basin near Woodland, which is slated to receive $800,000 for a feasibility study on flood control improvements if President Obama’s budget recommendation is enacted for that project.

“Today FEMA Deputy Associate Administrator Wright and his team heard the flood insurance concerns of Northern Californians loud and clear. While I’ve long cautioned against constructing urban housing projects in unprotected flood plains, we need people to understand that keeping agriculture in flood zones is usually a responsible and beneficial use of the land,” Garamendi said. “Buildings used in agriculture need to be treated differently under state and federal law, and refusing to do so only hampers farmers’ abilities to construct basic necessities like barns and sheds that helps their business become more productive.”

“A better balance needs to be struck,” Garamendi added. “I’ve been working with a bipartisan coalition in Congress to reform these laws, and I’ll keep at it. I thank Roy Wright and FEMA for coming out to the 3rd District today to discuss flood insurance concerns with me and other regional leaders. It was a productive and fruitful conversation.”

FEMA and Garamendi’s staff continued the day meeting with representatives in Knight’s Landing, then to Montna Farms in Yuba City to further learn about the utility of certain agricultural buildings in flood zones, then to the Shanghai Bend Levee in Yuba City to meet with the Sutter-Butte Flood Control Agency discussing flood control issues in the Sutter Basin, and then concluded the day at the office of the Yuba County Water Agency in Marysville to talk about the Marysville Ring Levee and other regional flood issues. At all meetings, the need to distinguish between urban and agricultural building infrastructure was of paramount concern.

Congressman Garamendi is a pear farmer and cattle rancher. He is a member of the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) Conference Committee, the bicameral bipartisan group that is charged with reconciling differences between the House and Senate passed versions of the legislation. WRDA authorizes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding for flood protection, ports, waterways, drinking water, environmental restoration, dams, and levee projects.

Last week, Garamendi voted for the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which addresses an unintended and serious problem stemming from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012: unreasonably high and immediate increases in flood insurance rates. Garamendi called the bill “an important first step” but stressed that more action is needed.