Inland and coastal communities seeking federal flood control support may soon need to follow a new set of rules for the government’s post flood assistance program. In a November 15, 2022 posting to the Federal Register, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers unveiled new natural disaster procedures designed to incorporate advances in risk analysis and disaster response lessons. (click here)
The Corps’ proposals could significantly impact a broad range of flood control projects across the entire country potentially impacting millions of Americans.
As the Corps explains:
The eligibility of a levee system for consideration for rehabilitation assistance after a flood was once based only on inspections conducted by the Corps. More recently, the Public Law 84–99 program has been transitioning to risk-informed eligibility determinations for projects, which are based on an evaluation of the non-Federal sponsor’s overall risk management activities, including information developed through inspections and consideration of system-wide interdependencies.
Since the last revision in 2003, significant disasters, including Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricane Sandy (2012), flooding on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers (2008, 2011, and 2013), and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria (2017) have provided a more detailed understanding of the nature and severity of the risks associated with coastal storms and floods. These significant events provided information regarding project performance and the effects of climate change that the Corps has considered when formulating this rule update and how non-Federal project sponsor’s activities and operations and maintenance responsibilities are key to a fully functioning system.
Having spent more than 30 years administering Corps policies for flood control review and authorization, I know firsthand the importance of project sponsors carefully reviewing these and other proposed changes. Not doing so increases the risk of missing out on accessing limited federal flood control resources. Most notably, project sponsors should consider the following best practices:
Ensure local flood control and storm damage reduction projects maintain continued eligibility for PL 84-99 assistance under these proposed new rules. Without a comprehensive assessment of new requirements, project sponsors may lose the opportunity for Corps disaster assistance and place a greater burden on community resources. Sponsors may also inadvertently increase potential flood risk.
Recognize the need to work with the Corps to capture the resiliency and system-wide aspects of projects and keep projects functioning as authorized by Congress.
Provide comments and other feedback to the Corps of Engineers on proposed rules as they impact non-federal sponsor concerns.
Whenever the federal government proposes new or updated rules, it is imperative for the public to participate in the process. Non-federal project sponsors would be wise to take advantage of the opportunity to comment on the updated Natural Disaster Procedures rules before the public comment period ends on January 17, 2023. As a former Corps employee, I can attest that the Corps welcomes any information pertinent to the actions proposed in the regulation and will take into account and respond to substantive comments when writing the final regulation. Now is the right time to make your voice heard.
Doug Lamont, P.E.
Doug joined the Dawson team in 2019 after a career with the Army Corps of Engineers, including 13 years as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Project Planning and Review.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dawson & Associates.