Officials Ask State To Help Green Island Homeowners Facing High Flood Insurance Rates

Aug 12, 2015

Credit WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

Albany County leaders rallied round the mayor of Green Island this week to address what they say is a "flood insurance crisis" that threatens the community.

On April 1st, the National Flood Insurance Program increased premiums in designated high risk areas, like Green Island, by 25 percent.

Mayor Ellen McNulty-Ryan says the future of the village, where about 2,600 people live, is at stake.  "Since the National Flood Insurance Program was adopted in 1978, we've had a total of five reported claims in all that time. Three of which were awarded a settlement totalling $29,308. In that same period of time, Green Island homeowners have paid over $3M in insurance premiums. The last time we had any real damage here in a flood was in 1936, and a lot of things have changed that have made it so we don't have the flooding here anymore."

Those changes include expanded capacity at the Sacandaga reservoir, upgraded dams and the construction of I-787.  McNulty-Ryan and the officials want the Canal Corporation to initiate a new hydrology study to determine "actual potential flooding impact." They also want clarification of how flood rates are determined.  Residents have toughed it out, but the officials say change is overdue.  "A sample of a homeowner in Green Island has an unpaid mortgage of $19,227. The replacement value of the home is $211,000. The person's homeowner insurance is $990. Their flood insurance this year is $2,452. It's estimated next year that it will be $3,065 and it's estimated in '17 that it'll be $3,800."

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy stressed that flood maps need to be updated ASAP to reflect actual conditions in the village.     "The money's there. We need to have our partners in government have the canal give us that money to do a study immediately."

Since 1979, residents of Green Island have paid the highest premiums in the county despite filing the fewest number of claims.  Assemblyman John McDonald pointed out there's been a lack of FEMA funding to finish the updated maps. FEMA is the lead agency on floodplain mapping and sets flood insurance prices in accordance with federal laws.    "This has been a very challenging issue. And what's really challenging about it, is it has hit good middle class families. People who wanna live in Green Island, wanna stay in Green Island."

Calls to FEMA were not immediately returned. A Canal Corporation official stated that Green Island is out of the agency's jurisdiction.