Federal Flood Protection Bill Passes State House

April 25, 2017, 2:00 PM HST · Updated April 25, 2:05 PM
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Flooding near Kūlanihākoʻi in the Kīhei area of South Maui (March 2017). PC: Kevin Olson.

The state House today passed a crucial measure to keep Hawaiʻi protected under the National Flood Insurance Program.

Last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency alerted the state that Act 203 does not comply with the NFIP requirements and that they will suspend Hawaiʻi from the program if the state is not in compliance by July 31, 2017. The current law, Act 203, exempts agricultural structures from building permits in order to ease costs for farmers wanting to build structures such as greenhouses and storage containers. However, the NFIP requires permits for all construction.

In order to restore Hawaiʻi’s eligibility with the NFIP, Water and Land Committee Chair Rep. Ryan Yamane introduced House Bill 1418 SD1, which amends the county exemptions from building permit and building code requirements to ensure that Hawaii’s communities are not suspended from participation in the NFIP. Rather than repeal Act 203, Yamane’s bill clarifies state building laws and includes language ensuring that all new structures comply with the federal program to protect Hawaiʻi’s agricultural communities.

“Hawaiʻi’s property owners can trust that their NFIP federal flood insurance will be protected and will remain in place, protecting them from future flood disasters. Thanks to this partnership and my esteemed colleagues’ support of this legislation, the State of Hawaiʻi is on track to clarify our state’s building laws, protect Hawaiʻi’s property owners statewide, and avert a terrible disaster in our federal flood insurance coverage,” said Yamane.

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In the last 35 years that Hawaiʻi has been participating in the program, FEMA paid out 4,600 claims totaling over $87 million. Currently, there are over 60,000 flood insurance policies totaling over $13.4 billion throughout the state at risk of being cancelled without the bill.

Myoung Oh, of the Hawaiʻi Association of Realtors said, “Many individuals and families, through hard work and saving, have benefited from the opportunity to purchase a property they call home. This measure ensures protection for not only home and property owners, but also the backing and guarantee of the federal government to meet the escalating costs of repairing flood damage. “

Brian Miyamoto, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau said, “we appreciate the Chairman’s leadership and foresight to bring all the parties together early to resolve this critical situation. By working together we were able to fashion a win win solution for all the stakeholders and to keep the exemptions available for farmers who qualify for them.”

Lawmakers gave thanks to a proactive and collaborative effort by the state, the four counties, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region IX, Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau, Hawaiʻi Association of Realtors, and Hawaiʻi’s insurers, banks, and builders.

The bill now heads to Governor David Ige for his signature to become law.

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