New Floodplain Rules Would Limit Construction

NAHB 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:

In this example, those areas in the gray region are within the 100-year floodplain and are currently subject to the various floodplain requirements.  Those areas in the tan region are outside the floodplain and no floodplain restrictions are imposed. The new EO defines both the gray and tan areas as being within the floodplain and subjects projects within them to comply with floodplain requirements.

In this example, those areas in the gray region are within the 100-year floodplain and subject to existing floodplain requirements, while the tan areas have no restrictions. Using the “freeboard” method, the new EO defines both the gray and tan areas as subject to new floodplain requirements.

  • 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, NAHB 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.

For more information contact Owen McDonough, Program Manager, Environmental Policy at 202-266-8662 or Billie Kaumaya, Federal Legislative Director, at 202-266-8570.

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Comments (13)

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  1. Ray Kothe says:

    This is really really bad !!! We have got to get Cong. and Sen. to do something about this !!!

  2. Ron says:

    This is crazy. This could possibly prevent people from building on their property where even a rain induced creek is present.

  3. Charlie says:

    It amazes me how restriction of land by regulation will eventually evolve to a taking of the land. If we revisit our originality, the land was the highest of all ownership. This came from our English roots, and common law. Land was all… It created life, economy, and wealth. The meaning of land ownership has a different sense today, but should always remain our funtimental right to own, use, and enjoy. Falls back to a man’s home is his castle.

  4. Tony cassolato says:

    This is really crazy! This will damaging to the industry. The administration is out of control. So does every property now built in theses areas need to be torn down? They are going to expand sensitive habitat even further where there are buildings on them today? Is the government going to compensate the land owners? This is a government take at its finest.

  5. Howard Richardson says:

    If this comes to pass, and it affects FHA and HUD financing, won’t it also affect any payments by FEMA to homeowners who built using current FEMA guidelines (with flood insurance) if they have a claim? Isn’t that technically a federal financed payment to cover repair?

  6. Kenny Comeaux says:

    Another example of the government grossly overstepping it’s endless boundaries!! Basically, they are telling you what you can do with your own property, for NO viable reason. Also, this will significantly affect the Non-developed waterfront property values, so all of those years you were being OVER Taxed, only to have the remaining value stripped away with this reckless administration !!!! Wow, is this America ? Or do we live in China or Russia?

  7. Frank Morse says:

    As with Biggert Watters, this issue will have to be fought at all levels, including grass roots and beyond. Time is of the essence to get legislation moving that will prevent the Feds from moving this forward. Win one, fight another one!

  8. James says:

    I do not see how this is a take. It only applies to federal funds and is not a prohibition on development. It seems to only require freeboard, which many communities are already doing. Take some deep breaths.

  9. John Bryant says:

    Let them build wherever they want, just make it clear that no taxpayer funds will be used to fund construction in the flood plains, finance purchases of structures built in the flood plains, insure properties constructed in the flood plains or offer any form of disaster relief for structures damaged by floods. Make it part of the closing documents that the buyer is aware that no taxpayer funds will ever be used to assist in the event of flood. When the taxpayer is no longer for footing the bill for the foolishness of others, the market will take care of this issue.

    • East Coast CFM says:

      I agree with John Bryant.

      Build wherever you want….As long as the rest of us don’t have to pay taxes in order for FEMA & NFIP to subsidize Flood Insurance Policies for non-compliant structures and that ALL new developers in floodplains are willing to assume (and pay) full premiums AND the the Government agrees not to provide Disaster Relief to those who assume that risk of constructing within floodplains (New Orleans).

      Oh wait…..didn’t they rebuild New Orleans with Federal Disaster Relief money (actually we borrowed more money from China to add to our deficit)?

      I’m sure that, when the next hurricane hits that region, they will be safe from flooding and won’t require any need for future Disaster Relief (taxpayer funds).

  10. Thomas garza says:

    I’m a owner of a property and in the side thier s a creek bed city is nott taking ownership I was told it is us water creek were could I get more info into this creek

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