Reducing rates requires nuanced approach

Published 1:11 pm Thursday, February 8, 2024

As a homeowner in Beaufort County, I am as upset by the rise in homeowner insurance rates as anyone. However, I think they are justified. From 2010 to 2019, I lived in the Washington historic district. One reason folks settled there is because it was high ground and relatively safe from flooding (the modification of Jack’s Creek has caused problems for some houses in that area). Same for the sand ridge (the Suffolk Scarp) on Highway 32 that I drive on my commute to work in Plymouth.

When we modify our environment by building over historical drainages and not allowing water to flood in swamps and marshes, we can expect problems. I am baffled about the new houses going in at 13th and Bridge streets, for example. Looks like the headwaters of a creek to me.

Our planet is warming. We can expect more frequent and stronger storms, on average, in Beaufort County. Another issue we must face is sea level rise. While it will affect everyone differently, we will lose land to water in Beaufort County. I encourage you to launch the Sea Level Rise Viewer at this website (https://coast.noaa.gov/digitalcoast/tools/slr.html). You can adjust the water level to see what impacts it might have. Despite some of our County Commissioners scoffing at the impacts of sea level rise, I would also encourage you to speak with folks that are already impacted by this. Hyde County farmers are losing land to salt intrusion, having to pump water out of more and more fields, and trying to dike away the encroaching water.

The issues we face are complex. I believe that our response should be nuanced. Let’s work together to figure out what steps we can take to reduce our insurance rates. For example, can we avoid building houses in places that are risky? How can we help poor and marginalized people that often live on some of the most impacted land and can’t afford to move? Can we restore historical drainages that have been paved over? To me, this seems like the only way forward.

Dominic Reisig is a resident of Washington.