Navigating the National Flood Insurance Program and Floodplain Regulations-Panelist 3

Year: 2022
Presenter/s: Kaz Guillozet
Symposium Session: 2022 - 03 Navigating the National Flood Insurance Program and Floodplain Regulations
Topics covered: fish-salmon, floodplain, hydraulics, modeling, and permits


This presentation will describe the efforts of a Washington State working group convened by the Floodplains by Design network to understand and respond to FEMA’s rescindment of a 20-year policy governing permitting for fish enhancement structures in floodways.

Aimed at easing the burden for communities advancing restoration actions in support of Threatened and Endangered salmonids, the previous 1999 FEMA Region X policy and 2013 clarification allowed fish enhancement projects that have minimal impacts in floodways to be permitted if a qualified professional could provide a hydraulic analysis and certify that the project was designed to keep any rise in 100-year floodway levels as close to zero as possible and that no structures would be impacted by a potential rise. This policy was initiated out of recognition that no-rise analysis requirements would likely exceed the cost of enhancement projects, unduly impeding these projects. The August 2020 rescindment of this policy means that all such floodway projects will now require CLOMR/LOMRs (flood hazard map revisions), increasing the time, cost and expertise needed to advance many fish enhancement projects.

In addition to impacting tribal, agency and other NGO projects, this rescindment will likely have significant effects on court-mandated culvert replacement timelines, costs, and other actions in support of imperiled fish species, with implications for tribal treaty rights and ESA listed species, occurring at a time of severe heat waves and drought.

Additionally, the 1999 policy focused on fish enhancement structures, which are almost always large wood structures. Concurrent with their rescindment of the 1999 policy, FEMA Region X has asserted that large wood used in fish enhancement structures in the floodway is not exempt from being considered fill. This will require the calculation of volume of each piece of wood put in the river, and excavation of that volume at corresponding elevations. Requiring compensatory storage for all large wood structures used in salmon recovery projects will further increase the time and costs, including excavation and disposal, and possibly right-of-way acquisition cost to advance these types of fish enhancement projects.

The goals of the working group are to communicate the implications of this policy, which impact tribal governments, agencies and non-profits, and to support: a) information sharing about rescindment, including early findings regarding effects on project costs and timelines; b) brainstorming around alternatives, including pilot efforts that could include investment in actions such as reach-scale models, batched CLOMRs, multi-phased permits, and provision of additional technical assistance; c) reflection upon long term goals and actions, and identification of potential conflicts with the BiOp and other intersecting policy issues; and d) co-development of creative long term solutions.

This presentation will describe the formation and composition of the working group, highlight key learnings and challenges from working group efforts and share highlights from two webinars on this topic. We will outline next steps and identify how the RRNW community may engage.