January 29, 2014

Senate Passes Whitehouse Amendment to Cut Through Red Tape on Habitat Projects

Legislation Eliminates Potential Financial Burden for Dam-Removal Projects in Rhode Island

Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate today approved an amendment authored by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to cut through red tape and burdensome costs that can hamper habitat restoration projects.  The amendment, which was added to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act by voice vote, facilitates habitat restoration projects by exempting those funded with federal, state, or local dollars from fees associated with a request for a flood insurance rate map change.

“Habitat restoration projects, like the Upper Pawcatuck River restoration projects in Rhode Island, can benefit our environment and reduce flood risks.  As a result, they can also reduce liabilities for the National Flood Insurance Program,” said Whitehouse.  “The projects are a win-win, but they are sometimes subjected to costly fees or needless red tape.  My amendment standardizes a process for eliminating one of the fees associated with these projects, sparing project developers and government agencies from unnecessary delays and paperwork.”

Under current law, habitat restoration projects that are expected to alter flood plains must request an official flood insurance rate map revision from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and pay an associated fee.  While the federal, state, or local government sponsoring a project may apply to have this fee waived – and the waiver is often granted – the process is not standardized and can result in delays and unnecessary paperwork for FEMA and other government agencies. 

The amendment was supported by the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association in Rhode Island, which has worked on a number of habitat restoration projects.

“As the administrator of several of Rhode Island’s most recent and valuable river restoration projects, including the State’s first permitted dam removal, I was thrilled to learn of the amendment’s passage today,” said Christopher J. Fox, Executive Director of the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association.  “I am proud of our Senator’s efforts, through this amendment, to reaffirm for the nation that Rhode Island is a leader in protecting and restoring the environment.  I am equally proud of the tremendous cost savings that the amendment will afford these types of projects, as well as the significant reduction in unnecessary government spending and red tape that will result when calculated out nationally.   On behalf of the wildlife, water, and people who reside in, and depend upon the health of the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed, I thank Senator Whitehouse and all those who supported this amendment.”

The Senate is expected to continue debating the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act in the days ahead.  If the Senate approves the bill, then the House will need to pass it before it can be signed into law by the President.


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