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Oklahoma Senator Says FEMA's New Flood Maps Are Creating Confusion

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As homeowners begin to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, a Republican U.S. Senator from Oklahoma said at a hearing Wednesday that FEMA's new flood maps are creating a storm of confusion. Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto filed the following report for NY1.

FEMA's new flood maps have added thousands of properties to flood zones across the city.
But the maps are just preliminary so far and could very well change before they're finalized.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a Republican, said that's creating confusion among residents trying to rebuild their homes.

Coburn: Based on what's out there now, can they start rebuilding based on what's out there now, and you assure them that following what's out there now, they're not going to get dinged in their insurance?
Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator: The answer is, you cannot say that for every household.
Coburn: OK, and that's an important thing.

The maps will determine how high residents must elevate their homes and set insurance premiums.

In some cases, the finalized maps may be less expansive than they are now, setting up the potential that some homeowners will spend extra money rebuilding to a higher level than necessary.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan insisted that the maps aren't slowing down construction.

Donovan: I have not heard that uncertainty about the flood maps are holding people back.
Coburn: Maybe we need to direct those people to you so you all can hear it. We've heard it over and over and over again.

Coburn also took aim at the New York City Housing Authority. He questioned whether it should get full Hurricane Sandy aid, while reportedly sitting on $1 billion in federal money.

"That billion dollars should be applied first to these issues before we give more CDBG money for the disaster up there," Coburn said.

For the most part, though, the hearing focused on mitigation and preparing for the next storm. That theme underscored the deep divide between Republicans and Democrats over climate change.

"We'd be making a mistake if we didn't also think about the symptoms of climate change but the core problem itself," said Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware, a Democrat.

"This isn't a hearing about climate change," Coburn said. "This is a hearing about the response to Hurricane Sandy."

It's a response that will take years to complete.

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