Victory for the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard

Credit: Photo Credit: FEMA/Dave Saville

Late last night, the House Appropriations Committee submitted to Congress the bipartisan FY2016 omnibus appropriations legislation. For months, members of the Senate and the House had been attaching riders to appropriations bills that would have blocked an updated federal flood protection standard from being implemented. But the final omnibus bill, a $1.149 trillion package, keeps the standard in place.

In January 2015, President Obama established the flood protection standard, also known as the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, via Executive Order 13690. This was an update to a previous executive order from 1977, which had established a similar flood protection standard, but was not as protective and did not consider the increased risks of flooding due to sea level rise and other climate change impacts.

The riders that blocked the flood protection standard were among more than 100 anti-environmental provisions that were part of the draft spending bills. The provisions are called riders because they do not affect spending levels in the bills, but are attached to those bills to make it harder to vote against or veto the policy changes.

While the omnibus appropriations bill contains language on implementation of the standard, it is very narrow in its application and consistent with the Obama administration's plans for how federal agencies will apply the standard.

This is a major victory for sound floodplain management and safeguarding our public infrastructure from the increasing threat of flooding due to climate change. Federally-funded bridges, hospitals, and wastewater treatments plants will now be required to factor in a high margin of safety when building in a floodplain; better protecting people and property, and ensuring our taxpayer dollars are wisely spent.

We're pleased that Congress came to an agreement regarding the flood protection standard. And we hope that when the omnibus bill comes up for a vote, Congress will continue to act in a bipartisan manner and pass an omnibus bill that leaves the current language regarding the flood protection standard intact.

Achieving this victory has been hard fought struggle these past several months. NRDC and its allies have worked hard to ensure that the flood protection standard would not be blocked. Through Congressional visits, letters to Congressional members, the placing of multiple op-eds, and the submittal of comment letters, we have scored a big win today. For everyone involved, you should take pride in what we have achieved. Thank you for your efforts.

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