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Draft NFIP Nationwide Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Published

Apr 27, 2017 | News & Views

Draft NFIP Nationwide Programmatic Environmental Impact
Statement Published

FEMA published a draft NFIP Nationwide
Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement April 7 for
public comment. The EIS process is required by the National Environmental
Policy Act to thoroughly address the environmental consequences of major
federal actions that could significantly affect the environment. The draft
would update the original EIS for the NFIP developed in 1976.

ASFPM has previously submitted comments to
the Federal Register early in the process when FEMA was seeking feedback on the
process including the scope, purpose and need. ASFPM submitted comments for the hearing record this past
fall when the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was
examining the relationships among the NFIP, Endangered Species Act and land use
regulations. Both ASFPM documents have several recommendations related to
improving the process and outcomes.

In participating in one of FEMA’s early
webinars on this NPEIS release and based on a cursory review of the document by
ASFPM leadership, two early concerns have arisen.

The
NPEIS does not include any commentary or analysis on one of the more
significant controversies in recent years – lawsuits against FEMA for
inadequate consultation on the Endangered Species Act. In response to lawsuits
brought under the ESA, FEMA has been required, either by the courts or through
settlement agreements, to undertake consultations under the ESA on the
implementation of the NFIP in particular communities or regions. In
consultations undertaken in Monroe County, Florida, the Puget Sound region of
Washington, and in Oregon, the services have found that the implementation of
the NFIP in those areas was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of
threatened and endangered species and adversely modify designated critical
habitat. It would seem a primary purpose and need for the NPEIS that should be
identified is to more properly address ESA coordination issues that have been
identified in these lawsuits and judgements (or at a minimum, describe why FEMA
thinks these are not relevant).

FEMA concludes that a) Everything that
happens in the SFHA is purely a private property decision between the landowner
and local community, and b) the NFIP minimum standards are strictly performance
standards, which means FEMA doesn’t tell communities how to meet them. Perhaps
as a result of this logic, FEMA has chosen as the “preferred alternative” that
requires communities, on a development by development basis, to maintain
documentation of ESA compliance through permitting and for Letter of Map Change
requests. It is concerning there was no consideration of alternatives that would
change basic NFIP standards of 44CFR60.3 on a programmatic level so that
through consultation with the appropriate federal agencies, basic floodplain
management standards could address ESA concerns at a regional or state level,
versus burdening communities on a per development basis.

The
deadline to submit comments online to the Federal Register is June 6, 2017.
To submit comments, go towww.federalregister.govand use the search function to lookup
Docket ID: FEMA-2012-0012. From there you can download or view a copy of
the PEIS (605 pages) or shorter 15 page Executive Summary. ASFPM will be
submitting comments, which are being coordinated by ASFPM’s Natural and
Beneficial Functions Committee. If you would like to submit comments to be
considered as part of ASFPM’s comments, please email ASFPM NBF Committee
Co-chair Rebecca Pfeiffer at rebecca.pfeiffer@vermont.gov by COB Friday, May 26, 2017.

FEMA will conduct public
meetings and webinars on
the draft NPEIS.

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