S. 2039: A bill to allow a State or local government to construct levees on certain properties otherwise designated as open space lands

S. 2039

A bill to allow a State or local government to construct levees on certain properties otherwise designated as open space lands

Sponsor
Sen. Bernard Sanders

Date
July 23, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, July 17, the House is scheduled to consider S. 2039, A bill to allow a State or local government to construct levees on certain properties otherwise designated as open space lands, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. S. 2039 was introduced on January 26, 2012, by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), and was approve in the Senate, with an amendment, by Unanimous Consent the same day. The bill was sent to the House and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of January 27, 2012.

Bill Summary

S. 2039 would require the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to approve of the construction of a permanent flood levee by a state, local, or tribal government on covered "hazard mitigation land", subject to certain determinations by FEMA. The bill would define “covered hazard mitigation land” as land located in North Dakota in a community participating in the National Flood Insurance Program on the date when an application for levee construction is submitted. Further, the community would have to certify that it will continue to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. Currently, the land is deed-restricted for open-space use only. The bill would require the Administrator to approve construction on such land if it is determined that:

  • Construction of the proposed levee would more effectively mitigate against flooding risk than an open floodplain or other flood risk reduction measures;
  • The proposed levee complies with federal, state, and local requirements, including an evaluation of whether the construction, operation, and maintenance of the proposed levee would continue to meet best available industry standards and practices, would be the most cost-effective measure to protect against the assessed flood risk and minimizes future costs to the federal government; and
  • The state, local, or tribal government seeking to construct the proposed levee has provided an adequate maintenance plan that documents the procedures used to ensure that the stability, height, and overall integrity of the proposed levee and the structure and systems of the proposed levee are maintained.

The bill would require a state, local, or tribal government that constructs a permanent levee under this legislation to submit an annual certification indicating whether the applicable government entity is in compliance with the maintenance plan.

 

Background

According to the Senate Sponsor’s office, S. 2039 would provide the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with greater flexibility to approve the construction of permanent levees on land bought out under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). Under the HMGP, FEMA can provide hazard mitigation assistance in connection with flooding only if the project in question meets certain criteria. One of the eligibility criteria provides that any lands acquired, from which structures would be removed, be dedicated to open space, recreation or wetlands management purposes. No new structure may be erected on the property, except restrooms or other open-space facilities. According to the bill’s sponsor, this legislation would allow local and state leaders to plan to build permanent levees on lands that FEMA may buy out using HMGP funds. The FEMA rule prohibiting permanent structures makes it difficult for the town of Minot to use its share of HMGP funding.

Cost

A CBO cost estimate was not available at the time of press.