Tuesday, August 27, 2013

FEMA Flood Hazard Map Updates

Currently in Vermont a flood map update process is underway in Bennington County and the Town of Richmond.   Beyond those areas there is no other work scheduled by FEMA.

At this time roughly half the state does not have access to Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs) this includes most of Addison, Grand Isle, Franklin, Lamoille, Orleans, Essex, Caledonia and Orange Counties.  Most of these maps are over 30 years old.

Years since Publication of Flood Maps

FEMA began a modernization process for the flood hazard maps in 2004 with the primary intention of making an official computer version available for users.  It was projected at that time that the process would be complete nationally by 2009.  Since that time pressure for updated studies (not just digitized), and the requirements, for those studies have increased the quality of the new maps at the expense of the quantity.

Since FFY11 the federal budget for map updates has been cut by 60% and priority for the dwindling investment has been directed to mapping flood hazards for coastal communities and communities behind levees.

Federal Budget Allocated to Update Flood Maps

When funding does become available for mapping in Vermont it will be through the process and standards of RiskMAP.   Through RiskMAP new flood hazard maps need to have high quality topography (i.e. the equivalent of two foot contour intervals) and a model-based delineation of flood hazards.  The map work will focus on watersheds (HUC-8).

HUC-8 Watersheds in Vermont

At this time multiple agencies have worked through USGS in Vermont to secure high quality topography from LiDAR for several watersheds that need updated flood hazard maps.  These areas include: the Missisquoi, Upper Connecticut River, and lower Otter Creek Watersheds.  LiDAR is also being acquired for much of the Lake Champlain Shoreline.

In March of this year the Association of State Floodplain Managers released a paper Flood Mapping for the Nation: A Cost Analysis for the Nation’s Flood Map Inventory  detailing funding needs to complete and maintain flood maps nationally.

VT DEC continues to express the acute need for map updates in Vermont.  Hopefully, as national coastal projects are finalized, FEMA can initiate work on inland riverine and lakeside flood maps.  Inadequate funding from Congress will prolong the absence of accessible and current data.  Data that is needed to plan for plan for community flood resilience, mitigate structures, and to correctly identify flood risk for insurance needs.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Interview about Post-Flood Recovery with President Clinton & Gov. Chris Christy - Clinton Global Initiative

A few days ago, I had been sent a link to a video from the Clinton Global Initiative of President Clinton's interview with NJ Governor Chris Christie about post-Sandy flood recovery.  Although this discussion is focused on the recovery of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy, President Clinton and Governor Christie use it as a way to more broadly discuss the topics of flooding, community planning, mitigation, recovery and the structure of flood insurance in the United States.

You may or may not agree with all approaches or ideas that are presented here (should we be spending billions of dollars on sand dune "re-nourishment" projects that will only last for a short number of years?), but I thought the discussion may help to spark some ideas or questions of your own.  It seems like it is quite a rare interview that has two influential high level policy makers (current and former) in an in-depth and frank discussion about mitigation and recovery.

Some of the highlights of their discussion includes:
  • Purchase of flood damaged homes and approach taken by the State of NJ;
  • How the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) can be re-organized or should flood insurance in the US be completely re-thought;
  • Some discussion on the role of the state in the recovery effort;
  • Why does Nebraska care about flooding in NJ?; and
  • Should another Federal agency be tasked with the role of flood policy, preparedness, planning and mitigation and let FEMA return to an emergency management agency?
You can link to the full 45 minute interview on C-Span's video library here

Bennington County DFIRM Update

The Bennington County Preliminary Digital Flood Insurance Rate Map (DFIRM) will be updated by FEMA to include new data provided by the Town of Bennington for flood hazards along the Roaring Branch of the Walloomsac.  The new Preliminary DFIRM will be released in the fall and a new 90-day Review and Appeal Period will open in February 2014. 

At this time it is projected that the Bennington County DFIRM will get a Letter of Final Determination in September 2014 and become effective in March 2015.

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 has expanded the opportunities for map appeals.  Now, where ever the delineation of the flood hazard has changed (not just the Base Flood Elevation) the community can present FEMA with higher quality engineering data for inclusion.  Please see the information at: Changes to FEMA’s Appeals Process.

Communities in Bennington County that are still in the process of updating their flood hazard area bylaws should plan to complete the process before the holidays 2014.

In the meantime, communities may want to update their bylaws to qualify for Flood Resilient Communities incentives under ERAF.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Week Long Training Available at FEMA's Emergency Management Institute

Maybe it is because school is just on the horizon, but it seems like there are many training opportunities for floodplain management lately.  In addition to the webinars that had been highlighted in the previous post, there are also more immersive training opportunities available.  FEMA provides week-long trainings all year round at their Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, MD that is essentially FREE for all local or state government employees (minus the appr. $100/week meal ticket).  FEMA reimburses you for your travel, has a shuttle van that will pick you up at the airport and does not charge you for your room or the class.  This is a great week-long training opportunity that is free besides your time and your meal ticket.  Link here if you would like to learn more about FEMA's Emergency Management Institute.

Did I also mention that the EMI courses are also pre-approved for Continuing Education Credits (CECs) if you are a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM)?  The approved CECs are noted after the course title below.

If you are interested in applying for one of the remaining training spots left at FEMA's Emergency Management Institute (EMI), I would encourage you to apply early.  Please contact me (rebecca.pfeiffer@state.vt.us) if you are interested in starting the application process or if you have any questions.  There are a few steps that you will need to take before having your application submitted to the Admissions Office at EMI, such as obtaining a Student Identification Number from FEMA, ensuring that you meet the course pre-requisites and having your application signed off by Vermont DEMHS (Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security).   

Upcoming Courses

E273 Managing Floodplain Development through the NFIP (12 Core CECs)

  • October 21-24, 2013 - Seats still available! 
  • March 17-20, 2014
  • May 5-8, 2014
  • September 15-18, 2014 

This is a basic NFIP four day course that lays the foundation for working with the NFIP in application in the field, and is targeted for local, Tribal, State and Federal Floodplain Managers.  Topics covered include outreach, mapping (risk determination), rules and regulations, permitting, elevation certificate, substantial damage and substantial improvement, flood insurance and legal issues as well as other important topics. 

E282 Advanced Floodplain Management Concepts II (12 Core CECs)
  • April 14-17, 2014
This advanced floodplain management course is a dynamic and interactive instruction that covers the following four topics in detail: Manufactured Homes & RVs in the Floodplain, NFIP Insurance Principles for FPMs, Higher Standards in FPM, and Hydrology and Hydraulics for FPMs. 

E284 Advanced Floodplain Management Concepts III (12 Core CECs)
  • July 21-24, 2014
This advanced floodplain management course is a dynamic and interactive instruction that covers the following five topics in detail: Floodway Standards, Disconnects between NFIP Regulations and Insurance, Common Noncompliance Issues, Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs), and Substantial Improvement / Substantial Damage. 

E194 Advanced Floodplain Management Concepts (12 Core CECs)
  • August 25-28, 2014 
This advanced floodplain management course is a dynamic and interactive instruction that covers the following four topics in detail: NFIP Rules & Regulations in Depth, Letters of Map Change (LOMCs), Roles & Responsibilities of the local FPM, and Preparing for post-disaster responsibilities.

E278 Community Rating System (12 Core CECs)
  • April 7-10, 2014  
  • June 23-26, 2014
  • August 11-14, 2014 

This course covers the Community Rating System (CRS), a nationwide initiative of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program.  It describes activities eligible for credit under the 2012 CRS Coordinator's Manual, how a community applies, and how a community modifies an application to improves its classification.  
**Since the 2012 updated CRS manual has been released and the changes to the Flood Insurance Program under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012have occured, there has been quite an increase in interest in this course.  Please sign up early or contact EMI Admissions to see if there are still seats available in the 2014 classes**

Friday, August 2, 2013

August STARR Webinars for DFIRMs, Elevation Certificates, Biggert-Waters, and Determining a BFE

Hello all,

I’d like to present the upcoming free, online trainings available through STARR. These trainings cover a variety of topics, from the NFIP basics through specifics of elevation certificates, and are presented by STARR staff, FEMA, and State organizations. Many of the courses are eligible for CEC credits for Certified Floodplain Managers.

Please feel free to register for any courses you are interested in attending, and invite or pass information on these courses on to potentially interested communities or organizations in your states. Also, if you are interested in using this online platform for any trainings that your state would like to present, STARR can support you in that effort. Please let me know if you’d like additional information on hosting online trainings.

To register for a course or to check on upcoming courses, navigate to http://j.mp/starrwebtraining  and click the “Upcoming” tab. 

Below are the courses available in August:

August 14, 12:00 pm Eastern – Using DFIRMs and Other Digital Flood Data
This one-hour beginner level session will provide a basic overview of digital flood insurance rate maps (DFIRMs) including how to use the DFIRM database in ArcGIS, using flood hazard data for mitigation and public outreach, and online resources for non-GIS users. The target audience are state and local officials that use DFIRMs for day to day floodplain management duties and/or beginner level GIS staff that support those functions. 1 CEC for ASFPM CFMs

August 15, 1:00 pm Eastern – Elevation Certificates for A Zones
Training on the proper way to complete FEMA Form 81-31 and best practices for using the Elevation Certificate in the floodplain development review process. Special consideration to using the form in A Zone without a BFE. 2 CECs for ASFPM Certified Floodplain Managers (CFMs) that register and attend individually and pass the learning objectives quiz at the end of the session.

August 21, 2:00 pm Eastern – Biggert-Waters NFIP Reform Act of 2012
The Biggert-Waters National Flood Insurance Program Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12) resulted in major changes to the NFIP. This session will provide an overview of the changes and implementation. This is an important informational opportunity for all local officials participating in the NFIP. Continuing Education and Professional Development Credits are available.

August 22, 1:00 pm Eastern – Elevation Certificates
Training on the proper way to complete FEMA Form 81-31 and best practices for using the Elevation Certificate in the floodplain development review process. 2 CECs for ASFPM Certified Floodplain Managers (CFMs) that register and attend individually and pass the learning objectives quiz at the end of the session.

August 28, 2:00 pm Eastern – Determining a Base Flood Elevation
Training on methods for determining base flood elevation in AE and A Zones using the FIRM/FIS and other resources, including tips for developing BFEs for A Zones. 1 CEC for CFMs.

Please contact Alex Sirotek from STARR if you have any questions.

Alex Sirotek, CFM 
FEMA Region 1 Regional Service Center 
99 High Street, 3rd Floor 
Boston, MA 02110