Lackawanna, NY - It looks like there may finally be some movement on the long-standing issue of high costs for flood plain insurance for hundreds of homeowners in Lackawanna. But it's not yet clear if the deal is done.
While a state lawmaker and city officials are hoping for more information from FEMA, there may be some official moves in the coming weeks.
Smokes Creek in Lackawanna has been the subject of a $3 Million dollar dredging job by the state DEC in recent years. That coupled with flood control work in the 1960s could finally make a case to lift hundreds of homes in Lackawanna's Second Ward out of costly federal flood insurance requirements.
An e-mail from a FEMA official sent to NYS Assemblyman Mickey Kearns indicates new flood plain maps could be out for the public next month in October. And then after a 90 day appeals period, some homes could in the spring of 2018, start being removed from those maps. That could save people hundreds if not thousands of dollars in premiums they have been paying out for flood insurance policies.
Kearns briefed members of Lackawanna City Council Monday night. Some Council members, who have also pressed for changes, say they're encouraged but still want some confirmation.
But also for some residents who have been in the program for years, the whole flood insurance issue is a costly mess. Peggy Canfield, who lives on Brown Street off South Park, says "I bought my house in 2003 and my yearly premium was $336 a year. Last June it went up to $1,522 a year. They said I was rezoned based on maps done in 1980."
Canfield says she considered selling with that staggering increase. It remains to be seen if she and many others get some relief from what they feel to be a very unfair burden, especially since there has been no significant flooding and few claims.
Some estimate Lackawanna residents pay nearly $350,000 dollars in flood insurance each year.
A similar situation was corrected in 2010 when people living near Cazenovia Creek in South Buffalo were removed from flood plain maps and insurance coverage.
We reported on this issue in Lackawanna last August but it takes on a new urgency with this latest e-mail and all the flooding from Hurricane Harvey and other storms.
We were not able to reach FEMA officials directly for this story.