Environmentalists Call on Congress to Support New Federal Flood Standards

An example of federal infrastructure elevated to minimize flood risk.
Credit: Photo Credit: Adam DuBrowa/ FEMA

Forty-one environmental organizations from across the nation have made their voices heard by sending a letter to Congress -- calling on them to support new federal flood protection standards.

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States. It is a serious threat to life and property, and the amount of money lost to flooding is becoming a heavy burden for the American economy. Between 1980 and 2013, flooding cost the US economy $260 billion with more than 20 individual flood events each exceeding $1 billion in damage.

As climate change raises sea levels and alters precipitation patterns, coastal areas and riverine communities will become increasingly susceptible to flooding. Thus, when the federal government invests in projects like bridges, schools, and waste water treatment systems, we must ensure that these facilities are built to a safer standard.

The new standards, issued via Executive Order 13690, will reduce the risk and cost of flood disasters by requiring all Federal agencies to meet higher flood risk standards whenever they build a project in an area vulnerable to flooding or give money to local or state agencies to do the same. Agencies will have flexibility in deciding what to build, where to build, and which local and state projects receive federal funding by using one of three safety benchmarks:

  • Use the best available climate science data to determine future flood conditions, and build above that future flood levels
  • Build structures and facilities two feet above the 100-year flood level for standard projects and three feet for critical projects like hospitals;
  • Build to the 500-year flood level.

Each option ensures that federally funded projects take into account the increasing frequency and severity of floods, as well as, the risk of future flooding attributable to climate change. Ensuring the implementation of this smart standard will result in stronger, more resilient communities and a more conservative investment of taxpayer dollar.

Unfortunately, just as we're making progress, some members of Congress are manipulating the appropriations process to prevent the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard from being implemented. These maneuvers harm the American public by blocking fiscally-sound and necessary, climate adaptation polices from being enacted. That is why forty-one organizations have come together today to call on Congress to let these much needed flood protection standards become a reality.

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Climate Adaptation

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