Homeowners fight flood insurance costs

Army Corps Defends Smokes Creek Analysis

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. -- With help from the City Council and Assemblyman Michael Kearns, Lackawanna residents paying mandated federal flood insurance are calling out the Army Corps of Engineers for not acting fast enough to change outdated flood maps.

The old maps put about 200 houses in a flood zone.

Last fall, however, the D.E.C finished dredging Smokes Creek to mitigate the flood risk, and the next step in making an official change falls on the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps of  Engineers acknowledges it has had the State's report since January. The Corps also said its team only started analysis of the dredging in March.

"We couldn’t start immediately because we have other projects as well,” said Paul Cocca, who leads the Corps’ team on hydrology.

Kearns, who has been trying to get residents off of federal flood insurance for years, feels other projects likely weren't given as much state money and that the residents who are affected financially by Smokes Creek should come first.

"It was a significant allocation from the State of New York to put $3.5 million [in] to address this issue,” Kearns said.

The Army Corps of Engineers defends the time it is taking to update the maps and make sure they are accurate.

"It's a very detailed data set. We have to incorporate that in our geographic information system, associated with the project, and pull that data into our model,” said Cocca.

Another problem is that the Army Corps of Engineers’ analysis isn’t even the final step.

The team’s analysis will go back to the state DEC and FEMA, and both agencies will have the chance to make comments, too.

Meanwhile, residents in the outdated flood zone wait, and the longer they wait, the more money they spend on each mortgage payment.

Members of the Army Corps of Engineers who spoke with Channel 2 could not guarantee a timeline for getting the analysis done.

"Right now, the core has the bulk of the work ,where we are providing the analysis necessary so we can show how the flood insurance rate maps are going to change,” said Laura Ortiz, an Army Corps of Engineers community planner. "It is important that each agency has time to do their work so that we can provide the best available information to the City of Lackawanna.”

Kearns worries that some residents are on the cusp of losing their homes if they have to pay much longer for extra insurance they can’t afford.

Two bills that Channel 2 looked at showed that the required federal flood insurance was costing those residents between $1,500 and $2,700 a year.

"People have been waiting a very long time,” Kearns said. "And I know everybody's working together, however this project needs to become a priority.”


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