Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Floodplain Rules Would Limit Construction

Your Home Builders Association is digging into a new Executive Order that could have a significant impact on how and where our members develop, build and remodel homes and communities near coasts and rivers.

On Jan. 30, President Obama signed Executive Order (EO) 13690, part of the Administration’s plans to improve climate resiliency as directed by the President’s Climate Action Plan.

It updates a 1977 EO that required federal agencies to do what they could to preserve the nation’s floodplains — areas subject to a 1% chance or greater of flooding in any given year — and limit their development where possible.

The new EO creates a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) for all federally approved or funded projects and significantly expands the areas to be protected. Federal agencies will have three options for establishing the new FFRMS elevation and flood hazard area:
  • Climate-informed Science Approach. Using the best-available data and methods to forecast changes from flooding.
  • Freeboard Value Approach.Adding an additional 2 or 3 feet to the base flood elevation of the 100-year flood (see right).
  • 500-year Elevation Approach. The area subject to flooding by the 0.2%-annual-chance flood.
And while the Administration has stated that the EO is targeted to federally financed projects, your Home Builders Association is concerned that the scope could be much broader: A strict reading implies it could include homes built under FHA and HUD housing programs and the National Flood Insurance Program. And conceivably it could affect permitting under the Clean Water Act — if all waters in floodplains are subject to federal jurisdiction, if the new Waters of the United States definitions are finalized as proposed — and the Endangered Species Act, because the floodplain is identified as critical habitat for many listed species.

The Administration said it wants to hear from those affected by the EO and plans a series of “listening sessions” around the country. The first one will be held in Ames, Iowa on March 3, with additional sessions scheduled through the remainder of the month.

Members can comment in writing, too, and those comments are due April 6. Get details from this Federal Register notice and this FEMA fact sheet.

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