EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — March 28, 2007

National Flood Programs and Policies in Review
Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) 2007 Draft

Pam Pogue
Chair, ASFPM Board of Directors
State National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Manager
Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency

Avagene Moore
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Amy Sebring, my associate, and I are delighted to see each of you here today. Our subject today is the 2007 Discussion Draft of the "National Flood Programs and Policies in Review" by the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM).

Some of you may be following the House Financial Services Committee at this time. This past Monday, the Committee Chair unveiled legislation to revamp the federal government's flood insurance program which is now a 38-year old program. This is the type of thing the ASFPM monitors.

We are very pleased to introduce our speaker today. Pam Pogue is the current ASFPM Chair and State NFIP Manager for the State of Rhode Island. Ms. Pogue has been involved in multi-disaster natural hazard mitigation, coastal zone management and watershed management programs, policies and issues since 1987.

In June 2005, she was elected Chair of the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM), an organization of professionals involved in floodplain management, flood hazard mitigation, the NFIP, and flood preparedness, warning and recovery. Please take the time to read Pam's bio and links to related materials on the background page after our session.

Please help me welcome Pam Pogue to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Thanks for being here today, Pam. I now turn the floor to you.


Pam Pogue: Thank you for inviting me here today. It is good to see each of you in the Virtual Forum.

I am here to discuss the ASFPM 2007 draft, National Flood Programs and Policies in Review. Before we get started, I would like to tell you about the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) that began in 1977. The ASFPM represents the professionals involved in floodplain management, flood hazard mitigation, flood preparedness, and flood warning and recovery.

It is the mission of the Association to mitigate the losses, costs and human suffering caused by flooding and to promote wise use of the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains. Today the ASFPM is the premier voice in floodplain management practice and policy throughout the nation.

Our 6,500 national and chapter members represent local, state and federal government agencies, citizen groups, private consulting firms, academia, the insurance industry, and lenders. ASFPM's influence is expressed through policy and practice changes that impact floodplain management in the U.S. and internationally. Our goals are simple – help the public and private sectors:

  • Reduce the loss of human life and property damage resulting from flooding.
  • Preserve the natural and cultural values of floodplains.
  • Promote flood mitigation for the prevention of loss and the wise use of floodplains.
  • Avoid actions that exacerbate flooding.

The ASFPM believes the opportunity to provide protection for our citizens and businesses has never been greater. We must begin to make use of our floodplains in ways that are not only ecologically correct, but are acceptable to our society as a whole. Wise floodplain management will provide both the means to address our flooding problems as well as creating sustainable development for future generations.

ASFPM is committed to working with local and state governments, federal agencies, the insurance and development industries, Congress, research and academia colleagues, our numerous partners in the private and public sectors and other professionals in floodplain management as well as related fields in the U.S. and abroad. We invite all who are dedicated to the future well being of this nation to join us in working toward reduced overall flood losses and the wise use of our lands.

You may be wondering about the background of the document under consideration. Seven years ago the ASFPM published National Flood Programs in Review 2000, the ASFPM’s periodic review of national floodplain management policy. While there was much work to be done in flood policy, the tone of that document was quite upbeat. Nonstructural flood protection measures and funding of mitigation programs was a mainstream thought. Integration of programs of flood and environmental management appeared to be moving forward.

In 2007 there are many good things happening. Under the surface there is some retreat from the gains of the 1990s, while on the other hand there are advances being made in other areas. This may be the natural ebb and flow of policy and in 25-years what today may appear a threatening trend may simply be looked back upon as one point in a seamless continuance and evolution of a comprehensive policy line.

In 1968 and on numerous occasions since then, it has been recognized that floodplain management is only effectively implemented by means of the integration of numerous programs and is a complex set of policies. Hence it is neither possible, nor even desirable, to look for a single historic program, act, or policy stream that integrates floodplain management across the nation.

Perhaps the closest the nation has come is with Executive Order 11988 signed in 1977 by President Carter. Beyond that Executive Order, whether it is the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Small Watershed Program, coastal zone management under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration flood protection projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the wetland and watershed programs of the Environmental Protection Agency, development and redevelopment program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or a variety of other initiatives—all mirrored and implemented by state and local governments—we continue to deal with floodplain management through programmatic stove pipes.

These are some of the significant events (or perhaps non-events) that have transpired since 2000 and are influencing flood policy today.

The ASFPM believes the solution to escalating flood damage and loss of floodplain resources is a coordinated national policy, with a transfer of assumed responsibility from the federal government to the local and state levels. Today some federal programs are being modified in a manner that ignores the state role, or are being set up to provide direct services to local governments with little thought of establishing incentives to build capability or encourage responsibility. As pointed out in this document, state-level capability is diminishing, and local capability is inconsistent and limited. Losses from floods cannot be reduced if these trends are left unchecked.

Although many advances have been made, the ASFPM is concerned that if we do not renew our efforts to institutionalize coordination among all levels of government and to solidify local and state capability, then the hard-won advances in the field of floodplain management will be lost rapidly. In that event, the cost to the nation will be extreme, as demonstrated by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Having said all of the above - why is this document offered and why is it important at this time? This document, National Flood Programs and Policies in Review 2007, is the ASFPM’s vehicle for commenting on and providing a comprehensive (and perhaps the only current) record of changes in U.S. floodplain management policy.

The appraisals and recommendations in this report represent the cumulative experiences of floodplain managers nationwide. As the nation’s leading organized voice for floodplain management, the ASFPM offers this status report of important adjustments needed in national flood protection programs and policy for the near future.

This discussion draft is being provided to the ASFPM membership and the public to facilitate timely access to ASFPM positions, findings, or floodplain management techniques, and to stimulate discussion that may result in refinement of the draft’s content.

Comments are welcome and should be sent to the ASFPM Executive Office at [email protected]. The final report will be available through the ASFPM in 2007 and will be announced in the ASFPM’s newsletter, News & Views, when it is published.

In closing, you are encouraged to read the draft document, study the recommendations and comment as you see fit. Please look for additional information including the ASFPM membership application on our website at www.floods.org. That’s where you will also find the goals, activities and accomplishments of our 12 policy committees who orchestrate the bulk of our national flood policy work.

The ASFPM invites each of you to participate in the following conferences as well:

The Association of State Floodplain Managers will convene our 31st annual gathering – the world's largest and most comprehensive floodplain management conference – the week of June 3-8, 2007, in Norfolk, Virginia.

Coming up even sooner, April 9-12, the ASFPM will host a Gulf Coast Floods Recovery Conference "Mission Mitigation," in New Orleans. This is sponsored by the FEMA Transitional Recovery Offices in the Gulf Coast States with the help of many other interested organizations. More details are available on the ASFPM Web site.

Thank you for your attention today. I am available for questions and now turn you back to our Moderator.

Avagene Moore: Thank you for a fine presentation, Pam. I am sure our audience has questions.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: Pam, do you have any target date for the final draft, and then will you submit to Congress?

Pam Pogue: Amy, our target date is beginning of June as we plan to distribute the document and have a presentation on it at our annual conference. We will also have it available on the ASFPM website www.floods.org

Avagene Moore: Pam, you mentioned diminished and limited capability at state and local levels. How will policy influence that? How is the ASFPM organized to foster more state and local involvement and action?

Pam Pogue: Great question Avagene. ASFPM has 25 (hopefully soon to be 28) state chapters. I am hoping that there will be much information disseminated through the chapters, such as working with other state partners, e.g., environmental management agencies, Coastal Zone agencies, etc. on common issues.

Ray Melberg: Are there any concerns about earthquake vulnerability of dams in watershed areas like California?

Pam Pogue: There are certainly concerns. Seismic risk is a critical issue. As far as this document, we would advocate future planning and risk management.

John Boyle: You mentioned the stovepipe issue, which is a problem in government today. Can you give a sense of how this will be addressed? You mentioned that each agency such as USACE, etc. has their own process/policy. How might the proposed document change this to bring them together?

Pam Pogue: If I may use a coastal example of stovepiping, in Rhode Island we try to address the issue of coastal flooding, impacts from hurricanes, etc. by working with our state coastal agency to leverage resources and expertise on the establishment of Special Area Management Plans. As far as the Corps--we would advocate more resources be brought to Corps programs such as Floodplain Management Service and Planning Assistance to States to address the technical and planning aspects of state flood issues.

John Boyle: Yes, coastal is a great example. There are 4 or 5 agencies involved in coastal management and each has their own plan. Yes, I spent time in LA -- the USACE needs to address coastal restoration.

Amy Sebring: I have a follow up to John's question perhaps. Is there a specific report recommendation to enhance interagency coordination generally?

Pam Pogue: Yes there is, with examples and how federal agencies can better collaborate. We also plan to publish a very detailed matrix that cross-references all of the recommendations given to each subject area, as well as agency jurisdiction.

Avagene Moore: Pam, can you share a brief overview of ASFPM's position/recommendations on levees? I ask because of the spotlight on levees in the New Orleans area.

Pam Pogue: Sure. First, please see our website at www.floods.org as we have posted a paper on the levee issue with a set of recommendations. I believe that essentially ASFPM's position is that the maintenance of levees is a state responsibility.

Amy Sebring: I think in your introduction you were generally alluding to the decline in the emphasis on mitigation in recent years. Do you think this may turn around? For example in the Pre Disaster Mitigation program I am not sure we even have a way to capture nationally what the mitigation needs are in a quantitative way? (I am referring again to stovepiping of programs.) Do you see any signs post-Katrina of more receptiveness to flood mitigation?

Pam Pogue: Absolutely! I see it not just in the Gulf area, which is critical post-Katrina, I see other states addressing flood issues in a much more progressive manner. For example, I will bet that until recently, most states did not even know they had levees, or what one was.

Ray Melberg: Properties that suffer repeated flooding but generally pay subsidized flood insurance rates--so-called repetitive-loss properties--constitute a significant drain on NFIP resources. These properties account for roughly 1 percent of properties insured under the NFIP, but account for 25 percent to 30 percent of all claim losses.

Pam Pogue: As you may know there is a FEMA repetitive loss pilot program. It was a result of the 2004 NFIP reform legislation. Yes there has been emphasis placed on repetitive loss properties.

Barbara Nelson: What about the difficulties of addressing the needs of the local communities for economic development and flood plain development issues? Conflicts actually is a better word. Small cities that need an economic base are allowing development in the flood plain, which increases the intensity of the floods. What are some options?

Pam Pogue: My questions would first be--are these small cities in the NFIP? If they are, then through implementing the NFIP building requirements (not the strongest, but what we have is better than nothing) there should not be the extensive development occurring in the floodplain as you refer to.

Avagene Moore: Dam safety is also in the news, Pam. We have one dam in Tennessee that has received a great deal of publicity - the Wolfe Creek Dam. Does the discussion draft address recommendations re dam safety? If so, can you briefly discuss them?

Pam Pogue: Re dam safety Avagene, yes the report covers that. Back to stovepiping. We would advocate that dam safety program be working in concert with the floodplain management program. For example, dam inundation mapping should be done (NRCS, Corps, USGS) with the floodplain management program to identify areas, properties at risk. Also, flood warning should be coordinated through a statewide stream gage network (USGS) with the flood folks and emergency management folks to prepare (FEMA, NFIP, National Weather Service) for example.

John Boyle: Does the report stress the importance of breaking down the barriers between local planning and zoning/community development departments and flood plain protection?

Pam Pogue: Great question John! Yes, as a matter of fact, the report emphasizes the critical role of land use planning and future development planning in terms of negating future impacts from flooding accomplished through collaborative efforts with other state agencies and local government that makes the land use decisions.

Amy Sebring: It seems clear to me post-Katrina that there still is a great deal of confusion in the minds of the public as to what is and what is not covered by homeowner’s insurance or the need for flood insurance. Does ASFPM encourage public education on this issue specifically? (Apparently the recently introduced legislation is going to include some requirements in this area.)

Pam Pogue: Yes! I get calls each week as to what flood insurance covers and who can buy it. The 2004 NFIP reform mandated that each state train their insurance agents. There is a very effective FEMA initiative, FLOODSMART, which is a great way to get the word out. Check out the web site at www.FLOODSMART.gov. It will indicate once you have entered an address what your flood risk is and how to buy insurance.

Kevin Houck: Pam, it seems like in past versions of the document, the focus has been on coastal areas. Does this version of the document address the quickly growing western areas of the country?

Pam Pogue: Yes, great question. What is very helpful in this version, and I think makes it such a strong document with wide appeal, is that it addresses "special flood hazards" such as those in coastal areas and the arid regions in our country.

Amy Sebring: Has ASFPM ever done a survey to find out how many cities/counties have a full time certified flood plain manager? This staff cost is totally borne by the local jurisdictions is it not? That is, there is no grant money for this? (This goes to the issue of local capacity.)

Pam Pogue: Actually Amy, ASFPM did complete a document called "Effective Management Program." It is on the website and includes all of the information you are asking about. With regard to the actual number of CFMs, there is a running count by ASFPM as to how many are in each state, and I will also add that the FEMA base funding program for the NFIP -- Community Asistance Program --State Support Services Element (CAPSSE) does allow for CFM prep and exam to be covered in the annual grant.

Amy Sebring: But does not support salaries? Am I correct on that issue?

Pam Pogue: Wow, now there is a sore point. Let me explain. The CAPSSE covers SOME of the expenses in implementing the State NFIP, however it is a 75/25 match, so it is also incumbent on the state to support it as well, as they should.

Avagene Moore: Pam, twenty years ago, there was more cooperation between national emergency management (EM) associations and the ASFPM than I am aware of these days. Also, I don't know that anyone in my community is working on floodplain management. I have always thought that EM and floodplain issues should go hand and hand and the two disciplines should cooperate, collaborate, etc. Any thoughts on that?

Pam Pogue: Sure, I was the State Hazard Mitigation Officer for several years. The SHMO is responsible for EM activities. Prior to 9-11 there was a much stronger integration between floodplain management and emergency management. As a result of the overemphasis (my opinion) on terrorism, huge amounts of resources (both $$$ and staff) were lost in FEMA. I do believe that particularly as FEMA gets reassembled, we are slowly gaining ground.

Amy Sebring: I have a final general question regarding ASFPM. Pam does ASFPM participate in these issues on the international level at all? With Canada or Europe, for example?

Pam Pogue: Yes we do. Last year I was asked to present in Paris at the National Academies. The NA was very interested in Lessons Learned from Katrina. To me, what was most interesting was the very different mind set of the European in terms of being prepared; just more willing to take on personal responsibility rather than expecting the Federal handout. As individuals, we need to take on greater responsibility to educate and prepare, rather than complain that we are "getting more." It really aggravates me when I speak to folks over the phone that complain about $280.00 - $410.00 annual policies for up to $150,000 of coverage. Where else do you get a return like that?

Kevin Houck: Thank you for everything that ASFPM is doing to push this national policy. What can we as individuals do to help support this?

Pam Pogue: Buy flood insurance, educate/talk to your legislators and insurance agents! They really need to be educated.

Amy Sebring: Comment relating to insurance premiums--I believe the public at large is also ignorant of the Community Rating System, which can reduce their premiums if their community participates to achieve a higher rating. I think there should be some national education done on this as well.

Pam Pogue: Amy, you are right, CRS is a great opportunity.


Avagene Moore: That is all the time we have today. Thank you, Pam, for your time and effort and for the good information! We certainly encourage folks to read the discussion draft and to provide comment to the ASFPM. We commend the ASFPM and urge the group to keep up the good work!

If I may before we close, if you would like to be alerted to future Virtual Forum topics and are not on the EIIP Mail List, please subscribe by going to the EIIP Virtual Forum homepage. If interested in partnering with the EIIP, please see the "Partnership for You" link.

Before we sign off, please help me thank our speaker, Pam Pogue, for her presentation. And thanks to you, the audience, for your presence and participation. The EIIP Virtual Forum is adjourned!