Federal Floodplain Management Listening Session: Take 8

texas session

Texas builders, state and local HBA staff and NAHB staff teamed up to voice concerns at the FFRMS listening session in Dallas April 7. From left: Matt Robinson, Sheena Beaver, Justin Webb, Frank Murphy, David Blom, Charles Liuzzo, David Lehde and Christopher Jackson

It’s taken seven listening sessions, scores of home builders and dozens of national, state and local staff members, but the NAHB Federation is finally getting some traction as we try to understand how the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) announced in President Obama’s Executive Order 13690 Jan. 30 will play out for the residential construction industry.

Other groups are now joining the chorus: On March 25, the Congressional Research Service, an independent, non-partisan research arm of Congress, released a two-page report raising many of the same questions home builders have been voicing about the FFRMS, including how it affects U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits under the Clean Water Act and the National Flood Insurance Program.

Like NAHB, the report also wants to know which agencies are overseeing the new rules, exactly what the Executive Order means by a “climate-informed science approach” to determining the extent of floodplain borders, and the answer to the most basic question that has yet to be adequately answered by the Administration: What sort of construction does this apply to?

On Tuesday, April 14 in Seattle, Wash., FEMA will hold the eighth (and presumably final) in-person public listening session on the new FFRMS – and just like an unending Groundhog Day, NAHB, state and local HBA representatives, and members will all be there with the same questions. Again.

EO 13690 updates an earlier executive order that has limited federal floodplain management to the 100-year floodplain for nearly 40 years. Now, as part of the Administration’s plan to improve climate resiliency and ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, federal agencies must expand their jurisdictions for all federally approved or funded projects based upon one of three options: a climate-informed science approach, an additional two-foot freeboard approach, or the 500-year floodplain.

Despite the “federally approved or funded” language, NAHB is concerned that the scope could be much broader and impose unnecessary regulatory requirements and additional red tape for home building, home financing, home sales, and land development along coasts, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds.

norfolk session

Norfolk, Virginia Listening Session March 11: Virginia builder Michael Newsom, NAHB Environmental Policy Analyst Owen McDonough and National Association of Realtors Regulatory Analyst Russell Riggs display maps depicting the expanded floodplain area in Virginia cities according to the 100-year and 500-year floodplain definitions while Tidewater Builders Association Vice President Josh Clark describes onerous regulatory requirements that home builders and developers will face if the FFRMS is implemented as written.

At all seven listening sessions to date in Ames, Iowa (March 3); Biloxi, Miss. (March 5); Norfolk, Va. and Mather, Calif. (March 11); Fairfax, Va. (March 24) New York City (March 27); and Dallas (April 7), NAHB has shown up in force, bringing more than 65 builders, local and state HBA staff, and NAHB staff.

In response to NAHB’s request, FEMA granted a 30-day extension for comments on the FFRMS guidelines to May 6.

Get more details and register for the April 14 Seattle listening session or send written comments on the new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard Implementation Guidelines. For details, see 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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