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EO 13690 & FFRMS Explained, Infomation on Listening Sessions, and How to Comment on the guidelines

by | Feb 27, 2015 | News & Views

Executive Order 13690 and the
New Federal Flood Risk
Management Standard Explained

President Obama on Jan. 30 issued Executive Order 13690 that revises
Executive Order 11988 and proposes a new Federal Flood Risk
Management Standard.

“Since the issuance of Executive Order 11988 38 years ago, we as a
nation have learned a lot about floodplain management and flood
risk,” ASFPM Executive Director Chad Berginnis said. “The changing
nature of flood risk, including increased risks due to sea level rise,
demands competent standards that will withstand the test of time and
the forces of nature. And we think the new EO and FFRMS is a great
step in the right direction.”

Elements of EO 13690 and the FFRMS

The EO and new standard would apply to federal actions such as
federal grants used for repair and redevelopment after a natural
disaster. In fact, the definition of federal actions to which the EO
would apply is unchanged from EO 11988. The FFRMS gives agencies
the flexibility to select one of three approaches for establishing the
flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design, and
construction. They can:
 Use data and methods informed by best-available, actionable
climate science;
 Build two feet above the 100-year (1%-annual-chance) flood
elevation for standard projects, and three feet above for critical
buildings like hospitals and evacuation centers; or
 Build to the 500-year (0.2%-annual-chance) flood elevation.

Other elements of the EO include a directive for agencies to use,
where possible, natural systems, ecosystem processes and naturebased
approaches when developing alternatives for consideration.
Also, the new EO specifies that it is the policy of the United States to
improve the resilience of communities and federal assets against the
impacts of flooding, and recognizes the risks and losses due to climate
change and other threats.

One of the new elements of the FFRMS is the
application of the new standard outside of the
mapped floodplain, especially where the
freeboard approach is used. We also know
significant flood losses occur outside of the
FEMA-mapped floodplain. Mother Nature
simply does not recognize our flood mapping
boundaries, and the FFRMS would require
applying the freeboard when determining
where the standard applies. At the same time
for the floodplain manager, this is nothing new.
Floodplain managers, on a daily basis, utilize
the base flood elevation to regulate
development activity, regardless if the mapped
floodplain boundary shows something
different.

In addition to the release of the new EO and
FFRMS, draft flood risk management standard
implementation guidelines were released.
Information about the FFRMS has been
incorporated into the guidelines to aid agencies
in development of their revised or new
procedures and to promote consistency among
agencies. The guidelines are also advisory. To
the extent permitted by law and consistent
with their statutory authority, each agency
shall draft or update their own rules and
regulations to be consistent with EO 13690.
The guidelines call for a 30 day timeframe after
the close of the public comment period to
develop an implementation plan for updating
their procedures. “After Executive Order 11988
was issued in 1977, the Water Resources
Council issued implementing guidelines for
agencies to assist with incorporating the
standards of the EO into their policies,
procedures, and programs. The new guidelines
amends that older document, and will be of
great assistance to agencies as they
incorporate the new FFRMS,” Berginnis said.

Process

A federal interagency coordinating group that
deal with floodplain management issues– the
Mitigation Framework Leadership Group (MITFLG)
– had been working on the new standard
for well over a year. This interagency team
includes agencies such as the Corps of Engineers, FEMA, NOAA, HUD, Transportation, and the Department of Agriculture (which includes NRCS).
Essentially all of the federal departments containing the nation’s water resources agencies – such as those that
oversee and construct dams and levees – were at the table. These agencies have some of the nation’s leading
experts and institutes that deal with flooding and water resources. The FFRMS was developed as a consensus
standard among these agencies.

Concurrent with the development of the standard, the views of elected state and local officials were solicited and
considered during the development of the standard. The consensus standard that emerged was very similar to
the one recommended by 26 governors, mayors, county officials and tribal leaders in the State, Local and Tribal
Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience report issued this past November.

Now that the EO, FFRMS and guidelines have been issued, a 60-day public comment period on the guidelines
has kicked off. Written comments are being solicited until April 6. In addition, four public listening sessions have
been scheduled: March 3 – Ames, Iowa; March 5 – Biloxi, Mississippi; March 11 – Mather, California and Norfolk,
Virginia. After the public comment period has ended and the revised guidelines are issued, agencies will begin the
process of updating their procedures to incorporate the new EO and FFRMS standard. In many cases, this will
trigger the need to do rulemaking, which will be subject to another round of public input. Only after the agencies
have incorporated the new EO and FFRMS will floodplain management professionals see its implementation on
the ground.

At the end of the day, the new FFRMS is good for the country. “The nation cannot afford to continue to pay for
larger and larger flood disasters. The proposed Federal Flood Risk Management Standard is a common sense
approach that will increase the nation’s resiliency and reduce future taxpayer costs for flood response,” ASFPM
Chair Bill Nechamen said.

ASPFM has created an FFRMS resource page, which you can see here.

FEMA has set up Informational Listening Sessions across
the United States. These sessions provide the opportunity
to listen, ask questions, and provide feedback on how
federal agencies implement the FFRMS.
Due to space constraints of the facilities, seating may be
limited. To reserve a seat in advance, please provide a
request via email at least three days in advance with the
contact information of the participant (including name,
mailing address, and email address), and the meeting to
be attended to FEMA-FFRMS@fema.dhs.gov and include
the subject/attention line: Reservation Request for
FFRMS. For anyone attending the meetings who is
hearing or visually impaired, or who requires special
assistance or accommodations, please also
contact FEMA-FFRMS@fema.dhs.gov.

Listening Sessions
March 3, 2015
3 – 5:30 p.m. (CT)
Iowa Water Conference Venue
Iowa State University
Scheman Building
Lincoln Way
Ames, Iowa 50011
March 5, 2015
9 a.m. – noon (CT)
Mississippi Recovery Office
220 Popps Ferry Road
Biloxi, Mississippi 39531
March 11, 2015
2 – 5 p.m. (PT)
California Office of Emergency Services
3650 Schriever Ave
Mather, CA 95655
March 11, 2015
9 a.m. – noon (ET)
Old Dominion University
Ted Constant Convocation Center
4320 Hampton Blvd
Norfolk, VA 23529

Floodplain Manager Voices Need to be Heard

The public has until April 6 to comment on the draft guidelines to implement President Obama’s new
Executive Order 13690 and proposed Federal Flood Risk Management Standard. The Association of
State Floodplain Managers leadership are asking you to formally weigh in on those guidelines.

ASFPM is asking its membership to read through the Revised Guidelines for Implementing Executive
Order 11988, and make note of language you support, and if you have questions or concerns, note
them along with a suggestion of what you think might be a practical solution. To comment, go to the
Federal Register and search for FEMA-2015-0006, and click on the blue “Comment Now!” button.

ASFPM Executive Director Chad Berginnis indicated what a unique opportunity commenting on this
new standard is to floodplain managers. “Most of us have never in our careers been able to comment
on an all-agency implementation guidelines.”
He said, “If you simply agree with the new standard, you still need to comment. The federal
government needs to hear the voice of floodplain managers loudly!”

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