By Logan Hall
Ventura County residents in unincorporated areas are receiving a break on flood insurance.
After county officials enacted a federal program that rewards a community’s flood preparedness level, property owners in places like Ojai’s East End along San Antonio and Thacher Creeks will receive a 20 percent discount on flood insurance. The helping hand comes at a time when some homeowners are paying large sums to protect their property from flooding costs.
“We’re paying $1,700 a year for flood insurance,” said Christine Roe, who has lived four houses away from Thacher Creek in the Siete Robles tract on Ojai’s East End since 1966. “And that doesn’t even cover what the damage requires.”
Help comes in the form of a Federal Emergency Management Agency program called the Community Rating System, which rates cities and counties that have taken action in flood preparedness. According to FEMA statistics, about 20,000 communities participate the National Flood Insurance Program. Few of those adopt FEMA’s CRS program. Even fewer qualify for the program’s 20 percent insurance discount. Out of 86 participating communities in California, only five received greater discounts than Ventura County, and most didn’t reach the 20 percent level.
“Only about one percent of communities (nationally) in the CRS program achieved the 20 percent discount level,” said county supervisor Steve Bennett. “This is the result of our county watershed district doing incredible work.”
FEMA looks at several criteria when determining a community’s eligibility for the different levels of the CRS program including the reduction of flood losses and the promotion of awareness of flood insurance. Bennett says that he and his staff began looking into the program after discussing flood issues with citizens on the East End. “I saw how high their rates were,” said Bennett of the property owners in the flood plain on the East End after touring the area. “They are going to have substantial annual savings now.”
Although the county has to spend money to make the program a success, officials believe it will be worth it and say much of the funding comes from federal grants. “There are enough people in the flood plains to justify the costs to the taxpayers of joining the program,” said county administrative assistant Steve Offerman. “There were some big-ticket items like the countywide hazard plan. That was fully covered by FEMA. Over the long term, it will save flood plain property owners a lot of money.”
Although Offerman says the county has done all it can to adopt the program, they’re still waiting on FEMA for final approval before residents can expect to see a lower insurance premium. “Judging by the slow pace of FEMA,” he said, “our staff says it could be six months before it takes effect. It’s just a matter of waiting for an under funded federal agency, but we’ve given them everything they need.”
Roe says that flood insurance is a big issue in her neighborhood, which has seen severe flooding throughout the years. “The big one was ’69,” she said. “It (flood) didn’t come into the house that time, but it went right through the rest of the property. We’ve been affected nearly every time it floods. A big discount on insurance would help.”
Log on to vcfloodinfo.com for more information on Ventura County’s CRS program.