FEMA announces finalized flood risk management standard


The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Wednesday announced finalized rules for the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS).

The FFRMS is a flexible federal standard requiring agencies to develop resilience and flood protection plans for federally funded projects and buildings, including the necessary building dimensions to protect them from flooding risks. Under the finalized rule, FEMA will also cover any applicable federal costs for implementing the standards. The standard also applies to projects involving safeguards against flooding, such as structural elevations.

A Department of Homeland Security official said on a call with reporters that the standards will require participants to account for “current, foreseeable and future flood threats.”

Another official said the standard will increase the number of feet structures can be elevated and broaden floodplains. It will also allow the consideration of future flooding threats rather than relying solely on currently existing risks.

“Taking forward-looking, effective steps to increase resilience before disaster strikes will save lives, property, critical infrastructure, and taxpayer money,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement. “The Federal Flood Risk Management Standard ensures that FEMA-funded projects meet that mandate. We cannot be passive as climate change threatens the safety and security of the American people and our homeland.”

Flooding and flood resilience have been a major priority for the Biden administration as climate exchange exacerbates the risks through sea level rise and more intense weather events. The White House and FEMA last week announced nearly $1 billion in funds for mitigation and resilience projects through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program. A White House official on the call explicitly tied the standard to broader efforts to improve flood mitigation infrastructure using BIL funds and expressed hope the announcement would have “cascading impacts” for resilience planning.

The announcement comes weeks after the Biden administration also announced the first-ever federal heat protection standards for workers as the U.S. faces unprecedented summer temperatures. It also comes days after Hurricane Beryl made landfall in Texas, after becoming the second-ever recorded category five Atlantic hurricane to form in July.

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