AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Civil Engineering Institute, an independent engineering education group, on Wednesday released an analysis showing that the federal government does not have the resources to protect flood-prone areas from catastrophic flooding and that it will be more expensive than the private sector to help residents and businesses recover from these natural disasters.
The study found that the US Geological Survey and the US Department of Energy have the capacity to protect and restore some floodplain areas, but it does not know how much, if any, the federal resources could accomplish in flood-sensitive areas.
AUSTIN ISLAND, Texas “If we have a flood like Harvey, which is a catastrophic event that will likely have widespread, catastrophic damage to the infrastructure, the flood protection infrastructure will be significantly lower than if we did not have a disaster,” said Jennifer Kuchar, executive director of the Institute.
“And that means there will be a cost to be borne by taxpayers, whether that’s for the federal or the private insurers to provide insurance to the public, to make sure that those properties that are under the threat are able to be protected.”
The Institute analyzed the costs of disaster preparedness for the flood-affected areas, including the cost of flood insurance, flood insurance reimbursement, and flood mitigation costs.
It found that each of the three factors required by the federal floodplain protection guidelines cost taxpayers about $100,000 per household.
The costs of flood protection would increase to about $3,000 for a one-story home, $6,500 for a two-story property, and $10,000 each for three-story properties.
A single household could pay about $300 for flood insurance to protect against the $100 insurance premium.
The Institute also found that private insurers are not required to pay for flood protection.
For each household in the state, the Institute estimated that private insurance would cover $4,300, or about 4% of the costs for flood relief.
For homes and businesses, the insurance premiums could rise to $5,200, or 8% of those costs, depending on the area.
For three- and four-story homes, premiums would increase even more: premiums would go up to $7,200 for a single-family home, and up to nearly $10.5 million for a three- to four-bedroom home.
The Institute found that insurers would only cover flood-related damages in areas that are in the floodplain.
“Private insurers would not cover the cost if there was no flood, and therefore there would be no flood insurance for the private insurance,” Kuchard said.
The report comes as Texas officials have been criticized for not spending enough on flood insurance.
The state is expected to issue a disaster declaration for Harvey in the coming days.
Kuchart said the Institute’s report is the latest to show that the state is not spending the money it needs to protect itself from floods and extreme weather.
The institute, which serves about 200 universities, said in a statement that it did not “find that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have the capabilities or expertise to protect the critical floodplain for which they are responsible.
These agencies do not possess the capacity or expertise for flood control and response, and thus cannot protect the flood plain effectively.”
The USGS is the federal agency responsible for collecting and analyzing flood information and issuing flood risk assessments.
The DEQ is the state agency that oversees flood insurance and other critical services.
The federal government has spent about $4.3 billion since 2003 on flood-threat assessments, including $2.7 billion since the first one was issued in 2007.
The USGS said the current assessment costs have increased because of climate change and that flood insurance could be costly.
Kuchar said that federal officials should spend the $2 billion to $3 billion to help communities that need it the most.
“We know that they have this capacity, but the question is what do they do with it?” she said.