Friday, January 14, 2011

The Wizard Behind the Curtain-Flood Plain Management

AS Dorothy discovered in the Wizard of Oz there was only one person behind the curtain running things. Well FEMA does slightly better!

Based on open source information it looks like about 25 people in FEMA mainly in the Regions actually do the complaince and enforcement task of seeing the following occurs:
(1) Offical FEMA maps and their revisions are adopted by the 20,000 participating communities.
(2) Visiting communities even after maps are adopted (all communities are given 6 months to adopt the NFIP maps and changes after they have been finalized and published in the Federal Register as to availability) to see if maps are understood by the persons identified in the community to enforce building and zoning restrictions and that they are used to control new development.
(3) Providing technical assistance on flood plain mangement including review granting of variances and new conditions that impact the current maps.
(4) Policing LOMAs and LOMARs to see if patterns of abuse are developing.
(5) Following flood plain management case law in each state so as to understand whether the entirety of a state can provide the necessary law for flood plain management.
(6) Reviewing post flood the calibration of that event, its size, and the NFIP maps.

Folks the country is just too big. Over 500 people minimum should be involved in this activity. It is not just a paper audit function.

With over $2.5 Billion having been spent on mapping by the NFIP this investment is totally wasted unless there is an adquate program of compliance activity.

Most communities have long since figured out that failure to adopt the NFIP maps is stupid. But many fail to keep up with revisions in their ordinances. But failure to enforce is systemic and means that much new construction escapes NFIP compliance.

Without compliance, the Program is only slightly better than the FREE DISASTER RELEIF that competes with the NFIP and undermines MITIGATION and FPM!

An absolutely brilliant set of monographs to assist communities in ordinance adoption and enforcement was created by Michael Rushman, later head of Cushman and Wakefield and now a prominent developer in the Southwest when he worked for the NFIP during law school at Georgetown University. With a background and degrees in planning, Michael ended up No.1 in his night law class at Georgetown.

These documents were invaluable and were closely review by OGC FEMA as were all programmatic documents in my time for legal sufficiency. Even all the insurance documents and information were review by OGC before going out to companies, agents, insureds and other interested parties in my time. There needs to be at least 20 highly qualified lawyers, with engineering, planning, Zoning, code enforcement background to assist in the compliance effort. Like the destruction of the SEC by reduction of its budget and staff, the same has occurred in the last 40 years of the NFIP by both Congress and those in charge of the program. This millions spent for disclosure in the mapping program, which is the enforcement arm of the NFIP in reality, is being largely wasted because of follow-up failure by the NFIP and FEMA.