PS&S wants to make you aware of an Executive Order signed by President Barack Obama late last week that may have huge repercussions for new construction activities subject to federal funding or regulations. The Order requires U.S. government agencies to adopt stricter standards for federally funded projects and programs with wide ranging implications including a potential increase to what is currently considered the design base flood elevation.

This new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard (FFRMS) will also require elevation of all new construction and substantially improved structures that are federally funded to the flood management standards established by the Executive Order, and will also apply to such infrastructure including roads and public utilities that receive federal funding. As all Federal departments and agencies have been directed to revise their rules and policies in accordance with this Order, it is unclear what impact this may have on the federal flood insurance program rates on new and existing structures that do not meet the new elevation criteria. Other federal rules and regulations governing land use and development activities will also be revised in accordance with this new Standard.

This Executive Order is a major reversal for the federal government and modifies the prior 1977 Executive Order 11988 (Floodplain Management) governing federal policy regarding development in flood hazard areas, and federal restrictions governing funding such development.

The new Standard gives agencies three options for establishing the flood elevation and hazard area they use in siting, design and construction of projects that receive federal funding, or are subject to federal regulations or standards. They can use data and methods “informed by best-available, actionable climate science”; build two feet above the 100-year flood elevation for standard projects and three feet above for critical buildings such as hospitals and evacuation centers; or build to the 500-year flood elevation.

This Executive Order establishes the Standard, but it is not the final word. A process now begins for further solicitation and consideration of public input, including from Governors, mayors, and other stakeholders, prior to implementation of the Standard. However, given the directive from this Executive Order, projects currently under planning or design should seriously consider this new Executive Order and its potential impacts from a compliance and cost perspective.

PS&S, through its involvement with various governmental stakeholders and industry groups, will continue to monitor the roll out of this modification to Executive Order 11988. We would be pleased to provide you with an analysis of how your project would be impacted by this new directive, and as always, will keep you advised of new developments in this urgent matter.

For more information, please contact Marilyn Lennon, PP, AICP, CFM at