President Issues Order on Flood Risk Standards

President Obama issued Executive Order 13690, “The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard” (FFRMS) at the end of January. 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.

The Standard was issued to further the Climate Action Plan; flood risks will increase over time as part of climate change. It requires 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: 1) Utilizing best-available, actionable data and methods that integrate current and future changes in flooding based on science; or 2) Two or three feet of elevation, depending on the criticality of the building, above the 100-year flood elevation; or 500-year flood elevation.

Some observers have raised concerns about the standard because it was developed with no involvement from local or state government. There is anxiety regarding how the new standard’s impact will be communicated to affected cities, landowners and others, given that different federal agencies may choose different options for applying the standard as well as the application of the standard to the National Flood Insurance Program.

Currently the NFIP requires all homeowners in the 100-year floodplain with federally backed mortgages to buy the insurance. But it is possible the NFIP standard eventually will be changed to mirror the new flood-risk management standard, which would force homeowners outside the 100-year floodplain to pay for the insurance.

NAR does not have a specific position on the FFRMS yet, but you can bet that its analysts are researching the standard’s impacts. FEMA will be conducting public listening sessions in early March although none are scheduled for Colorado. Comments can also be conveyed via email by April 6, 2015 using the Federal eRulemaking Portal:  (Search for the notice in docket ID FEMA-2015-0006.)

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