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 will outline how FEMA can implement the NFIP in Oregon in a way that avoids or minimizes any potential negative effects to listed species and critical habitat.

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 NMFS 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. The memos produced by these work groups are still being used by the three agencies to help craft solutions going forward. This new implementation planning effort is being informed by the alternative approaches proposed during the initial process.

Will the BiOp implementation plan prohibit development in floodplains?

No, while the BiOp recommends restricting floodplain development, FEMA cannot prohibit all or most development in floodplains. However, FEMA and its partner agencies believe that what’s best for human health and safety in the floodplain is also good for 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 participating cities, counties, and tribes permit floodplain development that can reduce 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.

FEMA and NMFS recognize that these changes to the NFIP will require more than a “one size fits all” solution. The aim will be to outline multiple options for local communities and tribes to demonstrate that development they permit in floodplains will not harm listed species or their habitat. The implementation planning process will also aim to develop templates, models, or other supportive documents that can help make dealing with these new requirements easier, especially for smaller communities.

Does the BiOp change what is required of communities under the Endangered Species Act?

Federal agencies are generally 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 any and all effects of its implementation of the NFIP program do not jeopardize the continued existence of species or destroy or adversely modify 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 evaluate what review may be required under NEPA. Once the NEPA process is complete, local governments will have at least 18 months to take any needed actions.