President Obama Issues Executive Order on Floodplain Development

In addition to the sea level rise work underway at the state level in North Carolina, the federal government is also wading into the issue with President Obama’s recent Executive Order 13690 (EO), creating a Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) for federally-funded or federally-approved projects that will expand the definition of “floodplain” and will greatly affect how and where new development, redevelopment and construction may occur.

BASE is concerned with the expansion of the historical definition of floodplain, unclear scope (which federal programs will be affected) and the possible confusion between agency plans.

Under this EO, federal agencies will have three options for establishing the new FFRMS elevation and flood hazard area: 1) Climate-informed Science Approach, 2)  Freeboard Value Approach – Adding an additional 2 or 3 feet of freeboard to the Base Flood Elevation of the 100-year flood 3) 500-year Elevation Approach – area subject to a 0.2%-annual-chance flood.

The EO requires each federal agency to incorporate the new floodplain definition and flood-risk reduction strategies into their existing programs and regulations. The Administration has stated that the EO is targeted to federally-funded projects, but the scope could be much broader. A strict interpretation implies it could include projects financed and approved by the federal government, expanding their risk standards well beyond the 100-year floodplain, including FHA and HUD housing programs, National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), Clean Water Act permitting and Endangered Species Act.

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