Cochran: Probe of FEMA map changes a ‘serious matter’

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is “troubled” by allegations FEMA changed flood maps to lower rates on hundreds of previously high-risk properties, agreeing further investigation is needed.

“The American people, especially those who rely on flood insurance, should be able to trust the reliability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood map process,” Cochran’s statement said. “The investigation into possible misdeeds in that process is a serious matter.

“The entire National Flood Insurance Program depends on the federal government using objective, accurate and sound engineering practices when creating flood maps. I am troubled by the allegations in this matter and hope they are quickly resolved.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bill Dedman last week reported Federal Bureau of Investigation agents are interviewing FEMA employees about map changes he documented in a three-part NBC series. The series exposed more than 500 changes that removed properties from high-risk flood zones, lowering premiums paid into the debt-ridden NFIP by as much as 97 percent.

In a follow-up about the FBI investigation, Dedman recapped his reporting on a nearby resort area: “Examples of map changes were found from the Gulf of Alaska to Bar Harbor, Maine. One hot spot of map changes was on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, in the twin resort towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, where 70 coastal buildings have benefited, costing the flood insurance program at least $5 million a year in premiums.”

Cochran serves on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over FEMA and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security.