Disaster Recovery and Environment

Special circumstances apply to HUD environmental reviews for disaster recovery efforts. This page contains resources and frequently asked questions regarding environmental reviews for recent disasters.

Related Resources

CDBG-DR: Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program


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Hurricane Sandy

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What are ABFEs and the best available data +1 standard?

The Base Flood Elevation refers to the level of the flood that has a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.  Advisory Base Flood Elevations (ABFEs) are maps that provide a better picture of current flood risk than the existing Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), which in some cases are more than 25 years old. The new ABFEs are the recommended elevation of the lowest floor of a building.  The ABFEs are based on FEMA coastal studies that were completed before Hurricane Sandy.  The studies include data that has been collected and analyzed over a number of years. Though advisory now, eventually information used to develop the ABFEs will be incorporated into official FIRMs.  The ABFEs are the required data source until new FEMA data such as Preliminary and Final FIRMs are issued.  More information on ABFEs can be found on FEMA’s Region 2 website at http://www.region2coastal.com/faqs/advisory-bfe-faq.

HUD and other Federal agencies are requiring an additional foot of elevation for projects in the Sandy recovery area.  The additional foot is a safety precaution in anticipation of sea level rise and climate-related impacts.  CDBG-DR funds require elevation of the lowest floor to one foot above the Base Flood Elevation shown in the best available data for new construction and substantial improvement of structures. Please note the following when applying the best available data plus one foot standard.

  • CDBG-DR funds require the best available data plus one foot for new construction and substantial improvement of structures.
  • Nonresidential structures must be floodproofed, if not elevated, to the best available data plus one foot elevation consistent with FEMA requirements and guidance.
  • Some communities may require that the lowest floor be built above the best available data plus one standard, and if a community does so, that stricter standard would supersede this standard as the minimum requirement.  Additionally, if the current FIRM enacted in a community has a higher elevation than the best available data plus one, then the higher FIRM standard would apply.  Contact the local building official to determine floodplain management and other reconstruction requirements as well as how to obtain an elevation certificate for flood insurance purposes.
  • All mixed-use structures must be floodproofed, if not elevated, consistent with the latest FEMA guidance such as FEMA NFIP Technical Bulletin 3-93 (http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=1716) and 6-93 (http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=1719).
  • UD’s interpretation of lowest floor is consistent with the latest FEMA guidance on lowest floor.  The current version of FEMA’s Elevation Certificate guidance for determining lowest floor elevations is available here: http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=1383

Where can I find ABFEs?

FEMA Region II created this website with a tool to help communities find the ABFE for properties. The website is at http://www.region2coastal.com/sandy/table.

When are ABFEs required?

CDBG-DR funds require the best available data +1 plus one foot for new construction and substantial improvement of structures.  Substantial improvement is any repair, reconstruction, modernization or improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the structure before the improvement or repair is started or if the structure has been damaged, and is being restored, before the damage occurred.  Substantial improvement also includes improvements to a structure that increase the average peak number of employees or customers likely to be onsite at any one time or the number of residential units in the project more than twenty percent.  The cost includes all non-federal and private funds in addition to the Federal assistance.  The substantial improvement elevation requirements do not apply to structures listed on the National Register of Historical Places or on a State Inventory of Historic Places.  The ABFEs are the required data source until new FEMA data such as Preliminary and Final FIRMs are issued.  One foot must also be added to the base flood elevation of both Preliminary and Final FIRMs when using CDBG-DR funds for new construction or substantial improvement in the Sandy recovery area.

Please note that if the state or local government requires a higher standard than best available data +1, then the higher state or local standard would apply.  Contact the local building official to determine exactly what you are required to do to meet or exceed floodplain management and other reconstruction requirements.

How do the ABFEs affect flood insurance requirements?

If your home is substantially damaged or destroyed, and you rebuild to the Base Flood Elevation on the currently effective FIRM, your insurance premiums may not increase immediately.  However, when the ABFEs become part of the next version of the flood maps, you may have to pay significantly higher premiums.  Adding one foot to the best available data will typically result in additional savings on premiums.  According to FEMA, if property owners simply rebuild to pre-flood conditions, flood insurance premiums could increase dramatically in the near future.  If the property owner has a “grandfathered” policy and the area is remapped, they could see an increase in premiums of over 200% over five years.

Do HUD regulations require a noise analysis for reconstruction and rehabilitation for disaster recovery projects?

No, a noise analysis is not required.  HUD’s regulations at 24 CFR 51.101(a)(3) state that HUD’s noise policy does not apply to any action or emergency assistance under disaster assistance provisions or appropriations which are provided to save lives, protect property, protect public health and safety, remove debris and wreckage, or assistance that has the effect of restoring facilities substantially as they existed prior to the disaster.

Do HUD regulations require an acceptable separation distance (ASD) analysis for disaster recovery projects that reconstruct or rehabilitate housing?

No, ASD requirements do not apply because the definition for HUD-assisted project at 24 CFR 51.201 is predicated on whether the HUD project increases the number of people exposed to hazardous operations.

Historic Preservation

Whole Building Design Guide: Historic Preservation and Emerging Disaster Issues

The Whole Building Design Guide is the only web-based portal providing government and industry practitioners with one-stop access to up-to-date information on a wide range of building related guidance, criteria and technology from a 'whole buildings' perspective. This web link focuses on the section for historic preservation and emerging disaster issues and highlights best practices utilized by a number of federal and state agencies during disaster recovery operations.

Unified Federal Review

FEMA's Unified Federal Review

Date Published: Ongoing