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Westhampton Beach Coastal Geologist Addresses Congressional Subcommittee About Flood Insurance

March 27, 2017
In The News

Westhampton Beach-based coastal geologist Aram Terchunian was one of two Long Islanders asked to share their expertise and insight at last week’s U.S. House of Representatives Housing and Insurance Subcommittee hearing focusing on the need for flood insurance reform.

According to U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, the subcommittee is currently deciding the future of the National Flood Insurance Program. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the program is aimed at reducing the impact of flooding by providing affordable insurance to property owners and encouraging local municipalities to adopt flood management plans, according to FEMA.gov.

The program, however, can be difficult to navigate for homeowners seeking help or protection in high-risk flood zones, like the South Fork.

“In Congress, I have heard from many Long Island homeowners who face difficulties navigating the complicated process and cutting through bureaucratic red tape when seeking an improvement in their premiums after an investment has been made to elevate a home or take other steps to protect a property,” Mr. Zeldin said in a statement last week.

Mr. Terchunian, founder of First Coastal Engineering in Westhampton Beach, was joined in Washington, D.C., by fellow Long Islander Melissa Luckman, director of disaster law at Touro Law School in Central Islip. During his presentation, Mr. Terchunian spoke about his first-hand experiences working with homeowners to evaluate and mitigate the risks to their waterfront properties, as well as the importance of elevating their homes.

“What struck me is that this was a fully bipartisan issue,” Mr. Terchunian said. “The congressmen were all very well-informed and they really want to find a way to both reauthorize this program and to address some major issues that exist. I was very appreciative of everybody’s testimony.”

Subcommittee members also heard from representatives from FEMA, but said the testimony from residents and people who use the program was invaluable in helping direct future reforms.

“After getting FEMA’s perspective on flood insurance reform last week, this week’s hearing was an opportunity to hear a perspective from those whose community depends on the National Flood Insurance Program,” U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, a Republican from Wisconsin and chairman of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee, said in a release this week. “Especially after Superstorm Sandy, it’s important to learn from FEMA’s claims review process, how to prepare against flood damage through better mitigation, and to better understand the barriers to entry for private flood insurance providers who may be able to offer consumers better costs and services, including claims handling.”