Wicker Comments on New Flood Management Executive Order

Miss. Senator Says Rule Could Have Significant Impact on States

February 25, 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today questioned state officials about the impact of a new executive order to expand federal control over flood plain management guidelines. President Obama issued the order on January 30, 2015.

Wicker’s comments were made during a committee hearing on the importance of enacting a long-term plan for federal surface transportation infrastructure.

“There are current projects to address risks, such as raising roads above the 100-year flood plain, Wicker said. “Now that won’t be enough. There will be increased costs because of these new limitations on building in a flood plain.  Communities could also face mitigation costs associated with ‘zero-rise’ policies that say a project cannot contribute to additional flooding.”

The President’s new proposed Federal Flood Risk Management plan requires the avoidance and mitigation of flood plains and expands the definition to include the 500-year flood plain.

Wicker continued, “This rule could have significant impacts on the distribution of federal highway aid; TIGER grants; HUD CDBG grants; federal loan guarantees; FEMA flood insurance; and floodplain management and disaster response programs.”

Federal agencies are required to use the rule in overseeing new transportation, energy, housing and water supply infrastructure projects. Existing structures and facilities that undergo significant repair are also required to be built on higher ground.

Mr. Carlos Braceras, testifying on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said the rule could cause state and local governments to postpone necessary maintenance to roads in order to avoid additional compliance costs.

Agencies are mandated to choose one of three approaches when building or completing maintenance:

  • Use “the best-available climate science”;
  • Build two feet above the 100-year flood elevation (1 percent annual chance) for standard projects and three feet above for critical buildings like hospitals and evacuation centers; or
  • Build to the 500-year flood elevation (0.2 percent annual chance).