FEMA released this controversial policy in February 2006 regarding Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFE). The information taken from FEMA’s web site demonstrates how a catastrophic disaster impacts an ever-changing political and regulatory landscape. Pre- viously, regulations required a formal adoptive process before the ABFE could be enforced.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emer- gency Management Agency (FEMA) is encouraging building back stronger and safer after major disasters in com- munities nationwide. FEMA announced on February 6, 2006, that FEMA-funded mitigation and public infrastructure recovery projects – including those in heavily impacted areas of the Gulf Coast region – are to be tied to new, higher floodplain elevations updated by FEMA using the most accurate flood risk data available.
“FEMA has a responsibility to protect lives and property, and to ensure that disaster rebuilding efforts use the best data available. We also have a respon- sibility to ensure that Federal tax dollars are spent wisely and cost-effectively. It makes no sense to rebuild using outdated data,” said David Maurstad, FEMA’s Acting Director for Mitigation and Federal Insurance Administrator.
Communities recovering from disasters in Louisiana, Mississippi and elsewhere will be required to use the new eleva- tions when available. Called Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs), – the height at which there is a one percent or greater chance of flooding in a given year – the rebuilding standards will be required for all FEMA-funded mitigation and public infrastructure grant-based recovery program projects. This in- cludes the Public Assistance Program, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, Flood Mitigation Assistance Program, and through the implementation of Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management.
The FEMA grants tied to ABFEs are those for the repair and rebuilding of public infrastructure projects such as schools, public safety stations, libraries and other shared community infrastructure. Individual homeown- ers, while encouraged to build back to ABFEs, are not impacted by this FEMA policy unless using a FEMA mitiga- tion grant in the rebuilding process. Homeowners should consult their community ordinances for rebuilding guidance.…
In cases when FEMA funds are not involved, existing NFIP standards will apply. However, FEMA strongly encour- ages communities to use the ABFEs, when available, in making decisions about reconstruction and elevation requirements across all rebuilding efforts. By applying stricter require- ments, communities can ensure a greater level of protection to homes and businesses from future severe storms.
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Ronald A. Cuccaro, SPPA
Sheila E. Salvatore
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