2020 Implementation Planning of the NFIP in Oregon
FEMA is leading an implementation planning process for the 2016 Biological Opinion on the National Flood Insurance Program in Oregon (“NFIP BiOp”). The NFIP BiOp was a scientific and legal analysis that concluded that the NFIP creates negative impacts to threatened and endangered native fish and the southern resident killer whale that are unacceptable under the federal Endangered Species Act. This plan will outline how FEMA can implement the NFIP in a way that does not undermine the survival of these species.
FEMA, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) will work together on the plan as an interagency team. The team will identify pathways for FEMA and NFIP communities that:
- Reduce flood hazards to people and property and maintain the natural benefits of floodplains (flood storage, water quality, and wildlife habitat)
- Are consistent with Oregon land use and other relevant state-level policies, and
- Can reasonably be implemented by Oregon NFIP communities in the parts of the state covered by the BiOp.
This inter-agency team will accomplish its work in 2020 through series of work sessions and meetings. These will include feedback opportunities with a broader set of interested parties, such as tribes, local governments and their associations, and conservation and industry groups. The results of this work may also be subject to additional environmental review and public comment under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- January: Inter-agency team begins to meet
- February: Partner workshop*, Salem: presentation and feedback on intent and process
- March-April: Inter-agency team drafts outline of potential implementation options
- May: Second partner workshop: presentation and feedback on interim results
- June-July: Inter-agency team develops menu of options, outlines needed guidance documents, templates, etc.
- August: Third partner workshop: presentation and feedback on proposed approach
- September-December: Drafting of implementation documents, initiate public review
*Partner workshops will be followed by webinar workshops for remote participation
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is this implementation plan needed?
The survival of salmon and steelhead depends on maintaining and restoring the natural functions of floodplains. Floodplains are important to fish because they provide shelter from fast-moving water during floods, and because the uses of land near a river or stream determine whether fish will have the food, shade, and clean water they need to be healthy. This implementation plan is a step toward ensuring that the NFIP is implemented in a way that does not undermine their survival.
Didn’t DLCD already collect feedback on this process?
In 2016-2017, FEMA asked DLCD to help identify any potential challenges with the approach to implementation NOAA Fisheries outlined in the BiOp (the “reasonable and prudent alternative”). DLCD convened a set of stakeholder work groups to help identify barriers and to propose alternative approaches. This new implementation planning effort was informed by the alternative approaches proposed during the initial process. The memos produced by these work groups are still being used by the three agencies to help craft solutions going forward.
Will the BiOp implementation plan prohibit development in floodplains?
No, the BiOp does not prohibit floodplain development. FEMA and its partner agencies believe that what’s best for human health and safety in the floodplain is also good for listed fish:
- When possible, new development should be steered away from the parts of the floodplain that are at highest risk of damaging floods.
- Careful siting and design can help ensure that new development does not exacerbate flood risk or undermine habitat values in the surrounding areas.
- In some cases, compensatory mitigation may be needed to ensure floodplains continue to function well.
Why do local governments need to make changes, if the consultation was between NOAA Fisheries and FEMA?
The 2016 Biological Opinion on NFIP in Oregon does not directly require any action of local or tribal governments. This consultation occurred between FEMA and NMFS and recommended changes that FEMA should adopt to reduce impacts from the program. The BiOp does not make any legally binding requirements of any other parties.
However, because FEMA’s program is implemented locally, the harm that the NFIP creates for listed species occurs when the cities, counties, and tribes that participate in the program allow new development that reduces the quality and quantity of fish habitat. As a result, under the eventual Implementation Plan, FEMA will likely change what is asked of local and tribal governments as a condition of participation in this voluntary program.
Does the BiOp change what is required of communities under the Endangered Species Act?
Federal agencies are held to a more rigorous standard than local governments and other non-federal entities under the Endangered Species Act. While a city or county government would generally only need to demonstrate that its actions do not directly “take” (harm, kill, or harass) listed species, as a federal agency FEMA must show that the cumulative effects of its implementation of the NFIP program do not jeopardize the continued existence of species or negatively affect their critical habitat. As a result, the actions FEMA eventually requests of local or tribal governments, as a condition of participation in this voluntary program, may reflect a higher standard than those needed to demonstrate that an individual jurisdiction or project is in compliance with ESA.
When will local governments need to take action?
Once the 2020 implementation planning process is completed, FEMA will begin a NEPA review process. Once the NEPA process is complete, local governments will have at least 18 months to take any needed actions.
Willamette Partnership is assisting FEMA in the planning process by facilitating meetings, conducting outreach efforts, helping maintain engagement, and assisting in the planning process.
Salus Resources is providing technical writing support for the NFIP implementation, and assisting in the planning process.