Federal Construction Must Plan for Flood Risks from Climate Change, Per New Executive Order
In furtherance of the administration’s plan to increase the resiliency of federal actions, President Obama released a new Executive Order 13690, “The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard,” as directed by the President’s Climate Action Plan. Notably, the order expands the definition of “floodplain” (higher flood elevation and expanded flood hazard areas) that all federal agencies must use – and builders must follow – for all federally-approved or funded projects. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is soliciting public input on newly released “guidelines” that will instruct federal agencies on how to implement the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS).
E.O 13690 - Establishing a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and a Process for Further Soliciting and Considering Stakeholder Input – was released on Jan. 30. It amends E.O. 11988, Floodplain Management, which dates back to the year 1977. It creates a new FFRMS (national minimum) to ensure that federal actions that are located in or near the floodplain last as long as intended by considering risks, changes in climate, and vulnerability.
At the president’s request, FEMA has published for public comment draft instructions on how federal agencies should go about implementing the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. Click here to directly access and review the draft guidelines.
Of great importance to federal contractors, the new standard requires federal agencies to update their flood-risk reduction strategies and expand the flood elevation and hazard areas they use when deciding where and how new development, redevelopment, and construction occurs. In their planning of federally-funded buildings, roads and other infrastructure projects, federal agencies must use one of three approaches to account for the impact of possible flooding from rising sea levels or more extreme precipitation (see below for more details). In turn, federal builders will need to meet the selected requirements during construction.
The guidelines, once final, will direct federal agencies in implementing the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, which they will do through agency-specific policies, guidelines and procedures.
Request for Input
FEMA is actively soliciting stakeholder input on implementation of the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. The public may comment on the draft amended Floodplain Management Guidelines through April 6. The administration has also planned a series of live listening sessions around the country (kicking off in Ames, Iowa on March 3 with additional sessions set to be held in Biloxi, MS; Sacramento, Calif.; and Hampton Roads, Va.), as well as a web-based listening session. Click here for details.
To submit your own written comments, or to view the public submissions submitted to date, visit the online docket.
E.O. 13690 updates a E.O. 11988 (dating back to 1977) on floodplain management, which required federal agencies to avoid, to the extent possible, adverse impacts associated with occupancy and modification of floodplains and to avoid support of floodplain development wherever an alternative exists. Since 1977, the term “floodplain” has meant that area subject to a 1%-or-greater chance of flooding in any given year – the 100-year storm event.
As abovementioned, E.O. 13690 creates a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) standard for all federally-approved or funded projects and significantly expands the areas to be protected. Now, federal agencies will have three options for establishing the new FFRMS elevation and flood hazard areas for consideration in their decision-making:
- Climate-informed Science Approach - Using the best-available data and methods to forecast changes from flooding.
- Freeboard Value Approach - Adding an additional two or three feet, depending on the criticality of the building or structure, to the base flood elevation of the 100-year flood.
- 500-year Elevation Approach - The area subject to flooding by the 0.2%-annual-chance flood.
The full extent to which federal agencies will tailor new and existing regulations, policy, and guidance to reflect the new floodplain definition and flood-risk reduction strategies is still unclear. But if interpreted broadly, these changes could impact many programs including—
- Clean Water Act permitting (under the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule, all waters in floodplains are federally jurisdictional);
- FEMA levee accreditation;
- Thee National Flood Insurance Program (e.g., community enrollment, mandate to purchase insurance, lender requirements, building codes and standards);
- Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation (the floodplain is identified as critical habitat for many listed species); and possibly
- Homes built under the Federal Housing Act and HUD housing and loan programs.
Additional background information on these topics is available on the FFRMS website or in the online docket for this Notice at www.regulations.gov, Docket ID FEMA-2015-0006.
AGC would appreciate hearing from its members on this issue. If you have any questions or concerns about the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard and implementing Guidelines as drafted, please contact AGC’s Leah Pilconis email@example.com or Scott Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Return to Top