Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Update on the new Federal Executive Order & Implementing Guidelines

A few weeks ago, we had posted information about the newly signed Federal Executive Order (EO) 13690 and the draft Federal guidelines that were released along with the EO.  Since that time, FEMA has posted more information about organized public listening sessions (all are located far away from us in Vermont) and about submitting public comments on the new Federal guidelines on implementing the new EO.

These new DRAFT guidelines, titled Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS), have an open public comment period until Monday April 6, 2015.  Comments can be submitted directly online through this website.  The public comment period is specifically intended for comments on the new FFRMS; the new EO has already been finalized.  We encourage individuals or organizations to participate in this process by providing comments and feedback on the draft FFRMS implementing guidelines.  Our understanding is that they are looking for both what people like about the new guidelines and what you may have suggestions on for improvement.  The last time the guidelines on Federal procedure & policy regarding floodplains were opened up for revision and update was back in the late 1970s, so this is an opportunity that doesn't come along often!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

New Federal Executive Order on Floodplains & a Federal Flood Risk Management Strategy

On January 30th, 2015, the President released a new Federal Executive Order regarding floodplains.  This new Executive Order (EO 13690) does not replace the existing Federal Executive Order 11988 (which dates back to the Carter Administration, effective 1977), but rather supplements 11988 in areas where the federal floodplain standards were lagging behind some of the existing state floodplain review standards.  Existing EO 11988 requires federal agencies to assess floodplain impacts when a federal action is taken within a federally-mapped floodplain.  Typically, federal agencies are tasked with ensuring the federal project is in compliance with minimum NFIP standards.

ASFPM has created a specific webpage for the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) that contains links to the various documents, as well as some background on the development of this new standard.  In addition, the implementation of the new EO and FFRMS has been reported about in the New York Times, as well as the Washington Post.

From the new EO 13690:

As part of a national policy on resilience and risk reduction consistent with my Climate Action Plan, the National Security Council staff coordinated an interagency effort to create a new flood risk reduction standard for federally funded projects. The views of Governors, mayors, and other stakeholders were solicited and considered as efforts were made to establish a new flood risk reduction standard for federally funded projects. The result of these efforts is the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (Standard), a flexible framework to increase resilience against flooding and help preserve the natural values of floodplains. Incorporating this Standard will ensure that agencies expand management from the current base flood level to a higher vertical elevation and corresponding horizontal floodplain to address current and future flood risk and ensure that projects funded with taxpayer dollars last as long as intended.

Key provisions of the new EO 13690 and the FFRMS, taken from FEMA's summary of the draft FFRMS Guidelines
The new federal flood risk standard requires all future federal investments in and affecting floodplains to meet the level of resilience as established by the Standard.  For example, this includes where federal funds are used to build new structures and facilities or to rebuild those that have been damaged.
The Standard specifically requires federal agencies to consider current and future risk when taxpayer dollars are used to build or rebuild floodplains.
In implementing the Standard, federal agencies will be given the flexibility to select one of three approaches for establishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design, and construction:
  • Utilizing best-available, actionable data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on science,
  • Two or three feet of elevation, depending on the criticality of the building, above the 100-year, or 1%-annual-chance, flood elevation, or
  • 500-year, or 0.2%-annual-chance, flood elevation.

It is important to note that neither this new EO 13690 nor the existing EO 11988 change the local administration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or any state minimum standards.

A 60-day Public Comment period is now open for the Draft Federal Flood Risk Management Standard Implementing Guidelines (FFRMS) which was also released on 1/30/2015.  Individuals are encouraged to submit comments before April 6, 2015.  Here is a link to a FEMA Frequently Asked Questions page of the Draft FFRMS.