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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General Resources

2016 CDBG-DR Environmental Review Webinar

This webinar covers the Environmental Review requirements for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) grantees as well as tips and resources to ensure compliance.

Date Published: June 2016

Notice CPD-15-07: Guidance for Charging Pre-Application Costs of Homeowners, Businesses, and Other Qualifying Entities to CDBG Disaster Recovery Grants

This Notice supersedes the July 30, 2013 CPD Notice (CPD 13-05) and the November 14, 2014 revision (14-017) which provide guidance for charging pre-application costs of homeowners, businesses, and other qualifying entities to CDBG Disaster Recovery Grants.

Date Published: September 2015

Overview of Exempt Activities and Categorically Excluded Activities Not Subject to §58.5 Related Laws and Authorities

This document provides an overview of activities that can be performed without completing an environmental review or with shortened comment periods in the case of emergencies.

Date Published: June 2013

Adoption of FEMA and Other Federal Environmental Reviews and Processing for Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Appropriation (H.R. 152) Activities

This document provides the language covering Hurricane Sandy Supplemental Appropriation (H.R. 152) Activities and includes Frequently Asked Questions to explain the use of the adoption provision, discusses the immediate approval provision, and features charts explaining the comment periods applicable to different types of assistance.

Date Published: March 2013

HUD Memo: Environmental Review Processing During Emergencies and Following Disasters under 24 CFR Part 58

This memorandum provides guidance for the use of the environmental review exemption at 24 CFR 58.34(a)(10). Responsible entities should use this guidance to provide documentation for the use of the exemption at §58.34(a)(10).

Date Published: December 2012

Frequently Asked Questions

What are ABFEs and the best available data for elevation?

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. 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. However, if the ABFE is lower than the base flood elevation on the effective FIRM, then the higher elevation will apply.  More information on ABFEs can be found on FEMA’s website.

  • CDBG-DR funds from 2015-2018 require the best available data plus two feet for new construction, repair of substantial damage, or substantial improvement of structures.
  • CDBG-DR funds from Sandy require the best available data plus one foot for new construction, repair of substantial damage, or substantial improvement of structures. 
  • Nonresidential structures must be floodproofed, if not elevated, to the best available data plus two feet elevation consistent with FEMA floodproofing requirements and guidance.
  • Contact the local building official to determine elevation requirements 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 and 6-93.
  • HUD’s interpretation of lowest floor is consistent with the latest FEMA guidance on lowest floor.  View the current version of FEMA’s Elevation Certificate guidance for determining lowest floor elevations.
  • Some communities may require that the lowest floor be built above CDBG-DR standard, and if a community does so, that stricter standard would supersede this standard as the minimum requirement

Where can I find ABFEs?

FEMA Region II created this Coastal Analysis and Mapping website with a tool to help communities find the ABFE for properties.


When is elevation required?

CDBG-DR funds from 2015 – 2018 require the best available data plus two feet for new construction, repair of substantial damage, and substantial improvement of structures located in the 100-year (or 1 percent annual chance) floodplain.  CDBG-DR funds from Sandy require the best available data plus one foot for new construction, repair of substantial damage, or substantial improvement of structures located in the 100-year (or 1 percent annual chance) floodplain). 

The decision about a structure being “substantially damaged” is made at a local government level, generally by a building official or floodplain manager. Substantial damage applies to a structure in a 100-year (or 1 percent annual chance floodplain) – for which the total cost of repairs is 50 percent or more of the structure’s market value before the disaster occurred, regardless of the cause of damage. 

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 by 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.  The required elevation must also be added to the base flood elevation of both Preliminary and Final FIRMs when using CDBG-DR funds for new construction, repair of substantial damage, or substantial improvements.

Please note that if the state or local government requires a higher standard than best available data +2, 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?

Flood insurance requirements are based on the current effective FIRM. 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 two feet 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

Disaster Recovery Programmatic Agreements for Section 106 Review

This spreadsheet provides a state-by-state list of current disaster recovery Programmatic Agreements (PA) that may apply to Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) projects.

Date Published: December 2017

A Citizen's Guide to Section 106 Review

English | Español

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires federal agencies to consider the effects of projects they carry out, approve, or fund on historic properties. This publication explains how the public can become involved in the Section 106 process.

Date Published: February 2016

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

This website serves as a resource for Federal, State and Local governments and Applicants for more information on environmental reviews for disaster recovery projects.

Date Published: Ongoing