FEMA proposes revisions to Flood Risk Management Standard

October 6, 2023

Public inspection view opened for the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

On Monday, Oct. 2, FEMA made an announcement of a proposed revision to its floodplain management regulations.

This was published in the form of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register.

The changes pertain to Title 44 Part 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): Floodplain Management and Protection of Wetlands.

60-day comment period on the flood risk management proposal

This revision brings a 60-day public comment window which will be concluding on Dec. 1, 2023.

The modifications fully endorse the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS).

The FFRMS’s objective is to enhance the longevity of federally funded projects.

It accomplishes this by factoring in probable shifts in flood risk projections, making sure these projects meet their intended duration.

Why is the FFRMS essential for US infrastructure?

Flooding risks have surged across a significant portion of the United States. This has been attributed to rising sea levels, evolving precipitation tendencies, and development.

Given this scenario, the FFRMS prompts federal units to consider future flooding implications when determining federally funded measures to further diminish the threat of floods.

By implementing the FFRMS, FEMA can integrate the most recent and actionable climate science data.

This will aid in bolstering the resilience of projects and communities against intensifying flood conditions.

The regulations set by FFRMS are specifically for federally funded actions that encompass new builds, significant improvements, or repairs following substantial damage.

It also takes into account hazard mitigation undertakings that involve elevating structures, dry floodproofing, and mitigation reconstruction.

The National Environmental Policy Act and Executive Order (EO) 11988 on Floodplain Management necessitate that federal agencies assess their actions.

They are tasked with mitigating detrimental impacts on floodplains and refraining from endorsing developments in flood-prone zones.

The FFRMS refreshes the stipulations of EO 11988. It instructs agencies to apply stricter criteria to determine acceptable flood risk levels for federally funded projects.

Additionally, it promotes the incorporation of natural elements or nature-centric solutions into project designs. These help to lower local flood threats and bolster defenses against inundations.

Historical perspective on the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

Since August 2021, FEMA has started to put the FFRMS into action, albeit partially.

This partial application leans on pre-existing regulations aimed at diminishing flood risks.

It has heightened the minimum flood elevation standards for structures situated in zones already subjected to flood risk reduction mandates.

However, it does not expand these zones laterally.

Tracing back to Presidential actions linked with the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard:

  • On Jan. 30, 2015, President Barack Obama signed EO 13690, giving birth to the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. Various federal agencies, FEMA included, initiated the implementation of these measures.
  • By Sept. 20, 2016, FEMA introduced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to overhaul its regulations, aiming to embody the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard.
  • However, on Aug. 15, 2017, President Donald Trump sanctioned EO 13807, leading to the revocation of EO 13690. As a direct result, the notice of proposed rulemaking was retracted.
  • Later, on May 20, 2021, President Joseph Biden enacted EO 14030, restoring EO 13690. Consequently, FEMA recommenced its endeavors to activate EO 13690 and the FFRMS.

FSJA Comment

For the Fire and Safety Journal Americas, the steps taken by FEMA resonate deeply.

With rising flood risks, it’s crucial for federal agencies to integrate forward-thinking and adaptable strategies into floodplain management.

These revisions, emphasizing resiliency and thorough flood risk assessment, not only safeguard infrastructure but also potentially save countless lives and resources in the future.

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