The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is proposing to amend 44 CFR part 9 “Floodplain Management and Protection of Wetlands” and issue a supplementary policy to implement the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) that was established by Executive Order 13690. 44 CFR part 9 describes the 8-step process FEMA uses to determine whether a proposed action would be located within or affect a floodplain, and if so, whether and how to continue with or modify the proposed action. Executive Order 13690 and the FFRMS changed the Executive Branch-wide guidance for defining the “floodplain” with respect to “federally funded projects” (i.e., actions involving the use of Federal funds for new construction, substantial improvement, or to address substantial damage to a structure or facility). For FEMA Federally Funded Projects, FEMA proposes to use the updated definition of “floodplain” contained in the FFRMS. As discussed further below, the FFRMS allows the agency to define “floodplain” using any of three “approaches.” In many cases, each of these approaches would result in a larger floodplain and a requirement to design projects such that they are resilient to a higher vertical elevation. For actions that do not meet the definition of FEMA Federally Funded Project, FEMA would continue to use the historical definition of floodplain, i.e., the area subject to a one percent or greater chance of flooding in any given year (or the area subject to a 0.2 percent annual chance of flooding in any given year for critical actions). Finally, the proposed rule would require the use, where possible, of natural systems, ecosystem processes, and nature-based approaches in the development of alternatives for all actions proposed in a floodplain.
FEMA estimates that for the 10-year period after the rule goes into effect, the benefits would justify the costs. Flooding is the most common and costly type of natural disaster in the United States, and floods are expected to be more frequent and more severe over the next century due in part to the projected effects of climate change. This proposed rule would ensure that FEMA Federally Funded Projects are designed to be resilient to both current and future flood risks.