Federal Flood Risk Management Standard & EO 13690—Analysis
On Jan. 30, President issued a
new Executive Order establishing a new flood risk management standard for federal
investments and programs.
The new standard amends the
previous floodplain management Executive Order (EO 11988) issued by President
Carter in 1977.
DRAFT guidelines for
implementation of the EO were issued soon after and published in the Federal Register
on February 4. The guidelines are open for public comment until May 6.
Once those are processed and the
guidelines are finalized, each federal agency will develop rules for its own
programs or update its policies. Either
way, another stage of public input will be available.
– to increase public safety, to
reduce flood-related losses of life, property and public infrastructure and to
preserve and utilize natural floodplain functions,
– to address the problem of
dramatically increasing costs of flood disasters for the federal taxpayers (Between 1980 and 2013, flood-related damages
totaled more than $260 billion. Losses exceed $10 billion a year.),
– to protect taxpayers investment
in actions in flood prone areas by helping ensure that federal projects
withstand increasingly challenging weather and rising sea level conditions, and
– to support the many states and
thousands of communities that have already strengthened their local floodplain
management codes and standards
What the federal standard does:
It is not a mandate or regulate
private development; it is only for those actions using federal money;
It requires all federal
investments in and affecting floodplains to meet higher flood risk standards;
It gives agencies the flexibility
to use one of three standards for establishing the flood elevation and flood
hazard areas to be used in siting, design and construction; and
Agencies can use one of these
1. Use data
and methods informed by best-available, actionable climate science, and if data
is not available to determine that, options 2 or 3 can be used.
2. Build 2
feet above the 100 year (1 percent annual chance) flood elevation for standard
projects and 3 feet above for critical actions – such as water supply, key
police and fire facilities, hospitals and evacuation centers, etc.
3. Build to
the 500 year (0.2 percent annual chance) flood elevation.
Freeboard is an additional height above the
national minimum standard which represents a safety factor. States and
communities that encompass more than half of the US population have already
adopted some form of freeboard. Others have developed ordinances which
– applies when federal funds are
used to build, significantly retrofit or repair structures in and around
– does NOT affect the development
standards or rates of the National Flood Insurance Program. Actually, for
properties built or rebuilt to the new standard, flood insurance premiums could
be significantly reduced;
– use of higher standards for
critical facilities was already in the guidance for the 1977 Executive Order;
– EO says that the standard should
be reviewed annually and a fourth option for calculating the floodplain for
federal actions indicates that clarifications can be added in the future, if
– agencies will have flexibility in
implementing the new standard and will incorporate input from the public and
stakeholders on their specific programs and policies; and
– many communities and local
jurisdictions already have higher standards, so this is not intended to be a
federal CAP, but to work with communities.
What Led to Development of New Standard?
Two previous standards applied to
use of federal funds in flood prone areas: EO 11988 and the 1 foot freeboard
standard in the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Much has been learned
through decades of disaster experience since 1977 in terms of science,
technology and building codes and standards. The freeboard standard applied to
the Hurricane Sandy affected areas is widely acknowledged to have promoted
safer, smarter recovery without causing significant state/local costs or
concern over its application.
Disaster costs continue to rise;
significant flood losses are occurring in areas outside the identified
floodplains and the federal share of disaster costs is higher than it has ever
Congress recognized the need to
better identify changing areas of risk on flood risk maps – as reflected in
requirements that flood maps provide information based on future conditions and
best available data. (Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012).
Response and recovery after
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as Sandy, led to use of Advisory Flood
Risk Maps to facilitate smarter rebuilding and led to the Army Corps of
Engineers incorporating greater resiliency for its projects.
National application of a flood
risk management standard for federal investments was called for by the
President’s State, Local and Tribal Task Force on Climate Preparedness and
“Projects that receive federal
funding should be sited and designed with the best available climate data and
include margins of safety such as freeboard and setbacks, to account for
uncertainties and reduce costs and disruptions from future hazards.”
The Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding
Task Force made a similar recommendation.
Collaboration, drafting and
consideration of perspectives of many federal agencies and their perspectives
was led by the Mitigation Framework Leadership Group (MITFLG) and the Federal
Interagency Task Force on Floodplain Management (FIFM-TF). Deliberations,
drafting and re-drafting took place during at least a year and a half.
Many States and Localities are
Way Ahead of Federal Government in Managing Flood Risk
Research indicates that well over
60 percent of the US population lives in communities/states that have adopted
some amount of freeboard.
22 states have adopted at least a
1 foot freeboard standard and at least five have more than that.
A number of cities, towns and
counties have adopted a standard of 3 feet of freeboard (at least 42 according
to verifiable research).
Many more cities, towns and
counties have adopted a 2 foot freeboard standard (at least 190 – also
according to verifiable research).
About 300 cities, towns and
counties have adopted a freeboard standard consistent with the FFRMS. Another
350 have at least a 1 foot freeboard standard.
Areas Not Yet Well Defined in
Guidelines are in draft. The
Administration is requesting thoughtful input from states, counties and
communities, as well as other stakeholders.
Use of the best available climate
science option is not clarified. How would that be calculated and documented? Who
would decide whether or not to accept the documentation? What standards or data
should be relied upon?
Clarify how might the standard
apply to projects at some stage of development and implementation?
Importance of Engagement with
Guidelines and Implementation
The state and local perspectives
on the guidelines and specific implementation is an essential part of making
the standard work. Observations on the anticipated impacts and effects as well
as constructive recommendations are important at this critical stage.
FEMA, joined by other federal
agencies, will host a series of Listening Sessions around the country. These
have been announced so far:
Ames, Iowa-March 3
Biloxi, Mississippi-March 5
Mather, California-March 11
Norfolk, Virginia-March 11
Fairfax, Virginia-March 24
New York, NY-March 27
Dallas, Texas-April 7
Seattle, WA-April 14
To read this document and see other ASFPM resources available on its website regarding the FFRMS, click here.