Deadline to comment on FFRMS is May 6

May 4, 2015 | News & Views, What's New

ASFPM is asking our members to do two things regarding the proposed standard:

1.Provide comments to us here in the EO so we can compile and submit ASFPM comments
2.Formally weigh in on the proposed Federal Flood Risk Management Standard guidelines with your own comments as soon as possible. The link to provide comments is just below.

Having early comments on the comment page will provide guidance to others who do not have your expertise on this issue. The public has until May 6 to comment on the draft guidelines to implement the proposed federal standard, we urge you to do so as soon as you can. You can provide comments on behalf of your agency/company or as an individual.

ASFPM supports the new standard to protect federal taxpayers and to protect communities who use federal funding for numerous public activities. You will see all the other need and justification for this standard by reading the information on the links on our web page devoted to the FFRMS (see below). The standard is not a major change in policy, but simply adds a freeboard to federal actions that occur in the SFHA. You will see in the data on our web page that over 60% of the population of the US lives in communities that already use freeboard.

You can read through theRevised Guidelines for Implementing Executive Order 11988, and make note of language you support, and if you have questions or concerns, note them along with a suggestion of what you think might be a practical solution. To comment, go to the Federal Register and search for FEMA-2015-0006, and click on the blue “Comment Now!” button. Then copy of the commentsbeforeyou submitand send us a copy.

The purpose of the new standard is to protect federal taxpayer investments that build, fund or provide federal assistance for actions in floodplains. Once the guidelines have been finalized based on public comment, each Federal agency must develop rules on how they will apply the standard to their programs. That rulemaking process will also be open for public comment, as it always is. That process will likely take at least a year after the guidelines are finalized.

The EO and new standard would apply to federal actions such as federal grants used for repair and redevelopment after a natural disaster. In fact, the definition of federal actions to which the EO would apply is unchanged from EO 11988. The draft guidelines lay out suggestions to the agencies, including giving them the flexibility to define the new floodplain and protection standard vertically and horizontally using one of three approaches:
Climate-informed science approach,
Freeboard value approach – Base Flood Elevation (100-year flood) +2 feet freeboard for non-critical actions and +3 feet for critical actions, or
500-year flood elevation approach.

Other elements of the EO include a directive for agencies to use, where possible, natural systems, ecosystem processes and nature-based approaches when developing alternatives for consideration. Also, the new EO specifies that it is the policy of the United States to improve the resilience of communities and Federal assets against the impacts of flooding and recognizes the risks and losses due to climate change and other threats.

As an example, here are some comments Berginnis provided at the first listening session in Iowa:
Flood Elevations and Floodplain Standards:
1) Guidance should have some information and hopefully discourage the use of LOMR-Fs by agencies to shortcut the EO. I have seen and heard of instances where the federal agency encourages their contractors/grantees to get a LOMR-F, remove the floodplain designation, and then magically, no EO applies. Very contrary to the intent of the EO:
2) Guidance should be clear and indicate agencies are required to meet higher state and local standards – far too often (I literally have two examples from members in the last three weeks) federal agencies claim sovereignty and ignore local standards.

Critical Facilities:
3) There seems to be a loophole in the new guidance – it seems possible that a critical facility could be built using the climate informed science approach and not meet the 500-year elevation standard. This would likely happen in a riverine situation versus a coastal one. And since the definition of critical facility is any risk of flooding is too great, why would we have a revised EO that actually reduces the protection level from EO 11988 which is 500-year or flood of record, whichever is greater?.

Finally my last comment was about hazard identification for critical facilities.
4) There doesn’t seem to be much in the guidance to rigorously require agencies, when there is a critical action, to look beyond FEMA flood maps to establish initial risk. However, there are many cases where a new major federal investment (think of a community WWTP) is proposed on some small stream that FEMA never mapped and because there isn’t a FEMA floodplain, they proceed as if there is no flood risk. Seems that there should be an approach, especially for critical facilities where they need to map flood risk even if it isn’t yet identified and then protect to the appropriate level.

Remember, the standard will only apply to federal actions, which means those actions where federal agencies build or fund an action. All of this is explained in the draft guidelines. The standard will not affect NFIP development standards and according to USACE will not impact their levee design process. Most of the comments in opposition are based on a fear that the standard will apply to private development, which the guidelines explain is not the case with the current EO, nor will it for this EO update.

If you simply agree with the new standard, you still need to comment. The federal government needs to hear the voice of floodplain managers loudly!

ASFPM has set up anFFRMSresources page on its website if you would like more information on EO 13690 andFFRMS. Go to, and toward the bottom of the page under “Current Events,” click on Federal Flood Risk Management Standard Information Page. As new developments occur, we will update this page, so check it often.