Member Update- February 3

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MEMBER UPDATE February 3, 2015

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 Message from NHMA President Ed Thomas

Hi. We have some special information this week!

A) New Executive Order on Floodplains

Last Friday President Obama gave me an early Birthday Present! He signed an Executive Order updating EO 11988 on federal support for development in floodplains.

This new EO directed that revised Implementing Guidelines for Executive Order 11988, Floodplain Management, be provided for public comment.  These guidelines are available in DRAFT form

Also available, a fact sheet from the White House Council on Environmental Quality on the new Executive Order.

Some of you have been working with me and many others for literally decades on the refinement and updating of the extremely important Executive Order on Floodplains issued by President Carter in 1978.

The new guidelines should act to clarify and accentuate the existing federal policies designed to constrict federal investments in flood hazard areas. Implementation of such policies has the potential to save enormous misery, environmental despoliation, and wasted taxpayer dollars.

The DRAFT guidelines include a number of provisions that will help protect and restore the natural environment of coastal and riverine floodplains. Proper Implementation of the new Executive Order and its implementation guidelines should both reduce flood losses and also help to improve water quality, preserve wetlands, and protect wildlife habitats. The new guidelines also encourage agencies to use more “environmentally-friendly” measures to reduce flood losses since poorly designed structural measures, such as levees and seawalls, have great potential to cause significant environmental harm.

This Executive Order is really an excellent start on a longer process to develop implementing guidance which will change federal policy and hopefully become a new “Standard of Care” with respect to private, NGO, state, and local action with respect to flood risk reduction and eventually all hazards disaster risk reduction (DRR).

NHMA plans to work with our friends and partners to assist in the review and development of implementation of the Executive Order. Volunteers to assist in this effort would be most welcome! You can sign up to volunteer here.

B) Climate Wire Article Mentioning Flood Insurance Appropriation

The latest issue of the E&E Publication Climate Wire features an article on the President’s 2016 Budget by their excellent reporter, Evan Lehmann. The article states:

“To prepare for future cataclysms, the budget provides $616 million for climate resilience initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security. Unlike disaster funding, these programs are meant to avoid damage. The funding includes $200 million in pre-disaster grants for local and state mitigation planning and $400 million for flood mapping.

Even though the nation is facing rising risks from flood, it’s “not all bad” if Congress refuses to approve the mapping requests, said Edward Thomas, president of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association.

That’s because Obama is moving forward with executive action, like the order he announced Friday requiring agencies to build federal infrastructure at least 2 feet higher. Also, Congress passed a provision in 2012 that sets the National Flood Insurance Program on a path toward better mapping — such as choosing the right places that might be flooded.

Much of the mapping now focuses on areas that are already developed, rather than in regions with fast growth — where risk maps can actually help shape the way communities are built, Thomas said.

“You want to get ahead of that [construction],” he added. “If you want to know where it’s going to be tomorrow, and five and 10 years from now, you get the maps done before the development takes place.” The budget also focuses on areas that inevitably burn.”

The reporter, Evan Lehmann, indicated to me that the chances of the appropriation for flood mapping being approved in full were just about zero. I responded that we must recognize that FEMA flood maps serve as the basis of lots more than flood insurance policy rating. They need to serve as the basis of flood Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). If we take the opportunity of level funding on flood mapping to follow the lead of the new Executive Order on federal floodplain management standards by changing the flood mapping standards to consider factors such as inevitable sea level rise, climate variability, climate change; while also allowing an opportunity for the Technical Mapping Advisory Council to suggest further improvements in the flood mapping standards in such areas as:  rethinking “clear water” flooding assumptions; future conditions flood mapping [upstream development leading to increase in flood heights as so well documented by the folks in Charlotte Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; considering how to increase the confidence level of existing BFE calculations; as well as considering a change in the flood mapping metrics so as to give priority mapping to areas subject to significant development/redevelopment pressures that a slowdown in flood mapping funding would not necessarily be “all bad.”

Thought you would all be interested in the Climate Wire story and in the background to my quote.

C) Upcoming webinar from National Adaptation Forum:

We hope you can join the sponsors of the National Adaptation forum on Thursday, February 12 at 12:00 PM CST for the quarterly National Adaptation Forum Webinar Ensuring Social Equity in Preparing for Climate Change: Challenges and Solutions.

The webinar organizers point out that:

“Climate change is impacting communities of color disproportionately. To respond to these challenges the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice Program, is working to educate communities to adapt to climate change. Join Jacqui Patterson, Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, to learn about her work on equity indicators and applications. Also hear about how these innovative indicators are being applied in the planning of newly formed Eco-Districts in Longview, TX and Gulfport, MS. There will be ample time for participants to ask questions.”

This is the sixth installment of the National Adaptation Webinar Series and is sponsored by EcoAdapt and hosted by CAKE.

For more information on the webinar and other National Adaptation Forum webinars visit the webinar support page.

If you are not able to make the webinar the organizers will also be providing a recording at http://cakex.org/NAF/webinars.

D) Excellent Webinar Linking LID, Water Quality and Flooding

The latest webinar in a webinar series, Weathering Change: Local Solutions for Strong Communities, is presented by Antioch University New England, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was especially excellent

The webinar is “Green Infrastructure and Flood Resiliency-Land Use Management as an Adaptation Strategy in the Built Environment,” Presenter: Dr. Rob Roseen, Associate at Geosyntec Consultants in Portsmouth, NH. AICP Credit was provided

This webinar very nicely linked together water quality, economics of development, and flooding. Specific case studies were covered of actual implementation. I believe that the webinar is a nice accompaniment to the extraordinary book by NHMA members Donald Watson and Michele Adams Design for Flooding.

The webinar was recorded and will soon be available on line

E) The next webinar in this series has the potential to be equally excellent.

Drew Curtis, Director of Community Development & Environmental Justice, Ironbound Community Corporation; Jacqui Patterson, Director Environmental and Climate Justice Program, NAACP; and Veda Truesdale, Senior Research Specialist, Rutgers University will be working to cover:

“The challenging impacts of climate change disproportionately affect those with the least resources to prepare, sustain and recover. How do municipal decision makers and civic leaders promote effective engagement with all community members, especially those that are likely to be most impacted?”

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Things of Interest…

Natural Hazards and Earth Observation

Studies of hazardous processes in the field and laboratory, and by using earth observation images. Based on the gained knowledge simulation models of the hazardous processes are built.

Earthquakes, floods and volcanoes: The most disaster-prone places in America

Disaster locations and details, etc.

Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States

Climate risk assessment for the United States, 2014

Articles & Editorials…

This Futuristic Desert City Is Designed For Self-Sufficient, Communal Living

Designers thinking towards carbon-neutral cities of the future.

How to survive a disaster

In a catastrophic event, most people fail to do the one thing that would save their life, says Michael Bond.

Pounded Again, Coastal Massachusetts Town May Consider a Retreat

Questions arise about buyouts and sustainability as storm occurrences increase

Charlie Baker should use state money to buy at-risk shoreline homes

Editorial urges buyouts for high-risk properties; become public green space.

Climate Change’s Bottom Line

Whether concerns encompass increasing disasters, human futures, or profit margins, climate change is on the minds of more than just environmentalists.

Note to our members:

With your member support and involvement, we look forward to continuing the promotion of natural hazard risk reduction and climate adaptation through a Whole Community approach.  Please consider supporting this mission by maintaining your membership (which can be renewed here) or through a tax-deductible donation (which can be done here).  If you prefer to donate via check, please download this form.

Note about website changes:

In an effort to better server our membership, some changes have been made to our website.  Job post submissions can now be made online using the link at the top of the job post page.  Also, NHMA’s work is made possible by the dedication of volunteers.  Please visit our volunteer page and consider contributing your time to the cause of natural hazard risk reduction.

Please remember to send any mitigation related announcements, articles, and resources to nathazma@gmail.com for inclusion in our updates.