EPA Considers Adopting Executive Order That Would Do An End-Run Around Congress to Impose A 500% Increase in Flood Plain Standards

The EPA is circulating a trial balloon, asking for comment, on a proposed Executive Order that would be issued by President Obama to drastically change the definitions of flood plains (and significantly add huge areas into the flood plain with massive increases in flood insurance).  In response, on the advice of legal counsel, Seattle-King County REALTORS® has weighed-in to oppose the proposal.

If adopted, huge additional areas of south King County along Hwy 167 would be placed into the flood plain.  Those new areas would then be subject to the Endangered Species Act, new home development would be more expensive, and many of the local city plans for future housing supply on the valley floor between Renton and Puyallup would be effectively wiped out.

In addition, property owners could see massive increases in flood insurance (and in some cases the flood insurance premium alone might cost more than the mortgage payment). And, many properties that do not currently have flood insurance (because it’s not currently required) might be required to get it, even if the property has never flooded.  Failure to purchase the insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program run by FEMA might cause any mortgages on the property to go into default.

The EPA proposal would redefine a flood plain as an area that would have a 2/10ths of 1% chance of being flooded in any given year, instead of having a 1% chance of flooding.

Stated simply, the proposed standard would redefine the flood plain standard from the current “100 year flood” to:

(a) A “500 year flood,” or

(b) 2 feet above the “100 year flood,” or

(c) A level consistent with climate-informed science.