Proposed Update to FEMA Rules for Builders

The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently proposed updated FEMA rules for builders and homeowners requiring them to build on higher ground when using federal funds on construction projects situated in flood-prone areas.

Construction projects affected by updated FEMA rules include buildings, roads and other projects receiving federal funds, as well as projects rebuilt with FEMA funds following federal disasters. Privately funded projects would not be affected by these new regulations.

These new regulations originate with an executive order signed by President Obama, requiring a new flood-protection standard for infrastructure projects using federal money. The executive order is an element of the administration’s broader agenda to address climate change.

See the proposed rule for updates to Executive Order 13690 on the Federal Register website. The public comment period on the FEMA proposal rules ends on October 21, 2016.

“This is ensuring that when federal investments are made we will rebuild higher and stronger,” according to Roy Wright, deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation with FEMA.

See also: Flood Zone Designations Explained

Some business groups and legislators are concerned about inevitable cost increases for homeowners and builders. While noting nearly all of the parishes he represents suffered flooding this year, Rep. Ralph Abraham, a Louisiana Republican said, “The very last thing these people need is the federal government imposing a new rule by executive action that will make their recovery more expensive.”

The proposed FEMA rules for builders provide three (3) options for federally funded construction projects located in flood-prone areas:

  1. Build 2 feet above the 100-year floodplain level for standard projects, or 3 feet above for “critical action” projects such as hospitals or nursing homes
  2. Build to the 500-year floodplain
  3. Use the best available scientific models which often combine flood records with other factors like sea-level rise data

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