US sets final rule to boost resilience of federal projects to flooding

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States finalized a rule on Wednesday to boost the resilience of federal buildings and projects against flooding, a move intended to help save taxpayers money as climate change exacerbates damage from high waters.


The federal flood risk management standard, first proposed by the administration of former President Barack Obama and finalized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, requires U.S. agencies to protect federal buildings and projects from floods.

Under the rule, projects will be required to be built higher and avoid floodplains according to current and future flood risks. The rule allows FEMA to consider climate science to help make projects and communities more resilient to floods, which kill about 100 people a year in the U.S. and cause billions of dollars in damages. The standard applies to FEMA-funded actions involving new construction, substantial improvement, or repairs.

Hurricane Ian in 2022, for example, damaged public facilities across Florida, including bridges, schools and libraries. After September 9, such projects must be rebuilt at the higher standard to ensure they don’t experience repetitive damage.


A recent FEMA report said that when adopting the latest flood resistant building codes, every dollar invested saves $11 in damages and cleanup costs. FEMA said it will share costs to implement the standard at applicable projects, often 75% or more. For example, FEMA has found that raising a building two feet (0.6 m) to higher ground adds less than 2% of the total project cost. For a $1 million project, the estimated increase to the applicant after cost share, is less than $5,000, FEMA said.


U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters in a call: “It will help decrease flood-related damage and it will help keep Americans and the infrastructure upon which they rely – from fire stations and hospitals to roads and bridges – safe when extreme rain strikes.”

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Michael Perry)

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