Insurance bill for city on rise

TUESDAY, AUG. 27, 2013

Flood coverage dilemma: Is increase worth a dam?

Hurricane Sandy made landfall Monday night in Spokane, nearly a year after it destroyed much of the Jersey shore, and eyes turned to Upriver Dam.

No need to run for your basement. The talk of disaster involved readiness and insurance coverage.

The Spokane City Council voted Monday to renew its insurance policies. The bill came to $1.5 million, about $140,000 more than last year. Half of it goes to liability coverage, but the city also insures its property, boilers and fire apparatus, and accounts for employee dishonesty.

The policy that faced the biggest cutback was flood insurance for the water reclamation facility. Last year, the city had $100 million of coverage for the $250 million treatment plant.

But after Hurricane Sandy pummeled the Atlantic Coast last October, following Katrina as the second-costliest hurricane in American history, flood insurers across the country scaled back their coverage. Spokane’s flood insurer, Affiliated Insurance Services, cut the city’s coverage in half, to $50 million.

“The payoffs from insurance companies have been astronomical,” said Tim Dunivant, the city’s budget director. “Insurers who have high exposure need more people to take on this risk.”

That’s why the city has to get supplemental flood insurance or live with the cut. To get the city’s flood insurance to last year’s level, the city will have to pay an additional $50,000. The council approved enough money Monday night to purchase supplemental insurance, but Dunivant said the decision to do so would be made later this week by officials in the utilities and risk management departments, city attorneys and the city’s insurance broker.

Still, it got officials to thinking: Is there much risk of a flood?

No, said Dan Kegley, interim director of operations for the city’s water department.

The only real risk of a flood came from the river. And the only way the river would flood is if Upriver Dam failed.

Considering the daily safety checks and the inspection that is required every five years by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will take place next month, no one is really concerned about the 80-year-old dam collapsing. And even if it did, the treatment plant is safe.

“We’re far enough downstream from the dam that the large release of water that got to the treatment plant would’ve lost some of its steam,” Dunivant said. “There wouldn’t be that big a change in the level of the river.”

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