Tester Meets With Leaders About Levee Certification


by Tim Franklin

Finding affordable flood insurance can be a big challenge for Montana landowners. Today, Senator Jon Tester met with leaders from around the state to examine solutions and hopefully avoid further rate hikes.

The senator along with about 40 community leaders gathered in Great Falls to find ways to solve the problem of certification requirements for levees.

"It's about survival,” said Senator Tester. “It's about saving money.We need to find out what's going on, take it to Washington, D.C., and try to meet the needs of rural Americans."

Senator Tester recently demanded answers from the United States Army Corps of Engineers about certification. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the federal government has required communities considered to be at risk for flooding, to certify that their levees are up to code. If they are not certified, their insurance rates increase even if the flood risk is minimal.

"We need to get into the conversation with FEMA and the Army Corps and make sure local entities have the ability to be in the conversation,” Tester said. “Then potentially pass a bill and deal with it in the appropriations process."

In some cases, the Army Corps has refused to carry out certification, forcing some Montana communities to pay high costs to private firms for certification. The senator hopes to take the concerns of leaders at today’s meeting to Washington, D.C. and try to prevent landowners from paying these increasing rates.

"One of the biggest things I have to explain to people about rural America when talking about this levee and dam issue is that we don't the population to spread costs. Plus it's a depressed time so it's a double whammy.

Tester, who is a member of the subcommittee that oversees the Army Corp's budget, recently demanded to know what criteria the Army Corps uses to determine which levees it will certify.