President Obama signs Executive Order for Federal Flood Risk Management Standard Requiring Federal Construction Projects to Plan for Flood Risks From Climate Change

President Obama signed an Executive Order for the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard requiring that all federally funded construction projects take into account the flood risks linked to global warming. Planners of federally funded buildings, roads and other infrastructure will be required to account for the impact of possible flooding from rising sea levels or more extreme precipitation, effects that scientists say will result from a warming planet. Agencies currently use historical flood data when creating building plans.

To meet the new standard, builders must meet one of three requirements. They can make plans using data and methods informed by the best available climate science; or build two feet above the current projected elevation for once-every-100-year floods for most projects, but three feet above that level for critical buildings like hospitals and evacuation centers; or build to elevations at which flooding is currently projected once every 500 years. The standard would also make  low-lying land ineligible for construction with federal funds.

In the Executive Order, President Obama outlined a process for requesting and considering of public input, including from governors, mayors, and other stakeholders, before the standard is implemented. Once public input has been considered, including from a series of public listening sessions to be held across the country, and the guidelines are finalized, agencies will implement the Standard through rulemaking or other procedures which will incorporate input from the public and stakeholders.

The move is one of a series of actions taken by Mr. Obama as he seeks to build his legacy on climate change. He has already proposed a sweeping set of Environmental Protection Agency regulations aimed at reducing planet-warming carbon pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks, and he is working with other world leaders to forge a global climate change accord by the end of the year.

Several scientific reports have signaled that the early effects of global warming — particularly rising sea levels and more extreme storms — are inevitable, based on the level of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Economists have begun to warn that policy makers must begin to plan for the costs of damages wrought by climate change. From 1980 to 2013, the United States suffered more than $260 billion in flood-related damages, according to the White House. More than 50 percent of Americans live in coastal areas, where infrastructure and evacuation routes are increasingly vulnerable to higher sea levels.

Further information:

New York Times article: Federal Construction Projects Must Plan for Flood Risks from Climate Change

Environmental News Service: Obama Orders Higher Flood Risk Standard for Federal Projects

Obama Orders Higher Flood Risk Standard for Federal Projects