Last month, the National Wildlife Federation asked a federal judge in Seattle for a temporary injunction that would block the Federal Emergency Management Agency from issuing National Flood Insurance Program policies to new development in certain flood hazard areas near the Puget Sound.
The move is the latest in a long-standing dispute over compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act. NWF initially brought suit against FEMA in 2003, contending that it had failed to consider how the federal flood insurance program contributed to development that harmed protected salmon and orcas. In 2004, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly found the NFIP encouraged floodplain development and harmed endangered salmon, ordering FEMA to seek a biological opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service.
The service handed down its evaluation in 2008 that the NFIP was pushing orcas and several runs of salmon toward extinction. The NMFS offered a set of recommendations that would require development within Puget Sound floodplains and riparian buffer areas be either prohibited altogether or limited to low impact development that protect native vegetation and have narrow footprints, pervious concrete and rain gardens that absorb storm water.
But nearly four years later, FEMA still hasn’t done very much to implement those recommendations, according to Dan Siemann, a senior environmental policy analyst with the NWF. In this week’s edition of the FIRE Podcast, we talk to Siemann about the group’s suit, and the ways in which taxpayer subsidies to the NFIP have harmful impacts on environmentally sensitive areas.