FEMA proposes stricter building regulations for flood-prone areas
- The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has proposed that most construction projects using federal funds be built 2 feet above the 100-year floodplain, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Critical action" projects like hospitals would be required to be built 3 feet above the floodplain.
- As alternatives to the 2-foot rule, projects can either be built using the 500-year floodplain as a benchmark or be built according to certain approved scientific models that use sea level and historical flood information.
- While many states have already instituted similar or more rigorous standards for flood-zone construction, some officials, such as those in Louisiana — the site of recent historic flooding — said the proposal would create an expensive burden for those trying to rebuild.
The new FEMA regulations — which are now in a comment period until Oct. 21 — are an offshoot of a January 2015 executive order that required updated flood-protection standards for federally funded projects in response to climate change. The rules also pertain to transportation projects and those receiving FEMA emergency funds to aid in rebuilding after a natural disaster. Current regulations require that properties simply be built at or above the 100-year floodplain to qualify for the national flood insurance program.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Home Builders' Billie Kaumaya told The Journal that potential "conflicting rules" from federal agencies might cause confusion among builders. FEMA officials said the new rule would ensure that those projects using federal dollars are built "higher and stronger."
How floodplains are calculated became an issue after FEMA redrew the maps in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of New York and New Jersey in 2012. Many communities disputed their inclusion in what FEMA said was a floodplain and lodged official disputes against the agency to challenge that status. New York City officials took it upon themselves to come up with their own mapping, which resulted in approximately 26,000 structures and 170,000 residents being removed from flood zones, according to attorney Michael Bogin, partner at Sive, Paget & Riesel in New York.
However, the danger from flooding is real, as evidenced by the latest disaster near Baton Rouge, LA, which has killed 13 people. According to a Zillow report earlier this month, an expected 6-foot rise in sea levels by the year 2100 could put about 2 million U.S. homes under water, an $882 billion loss in property alone. Florida is estimated to lose the most homes, one in eight, while Pennsylvania would see only 0.1% of its housing stock destroyed.
- The Wall Street Journal FEMA Proposes Rules for Construction in Flood Areas
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