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Quigley Re-Introduces Bicameral Legislation To Map Urban Flooding and Help FEMA Better Assess Risks

May 13, 2021
Press Release

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL-05) re-introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Flood Mapping Modernization and Homeowner Empowerment Pilot Program Act of 2021 to enhance the mapping of urban flooding to prevent associated damage.  The legislation will help give cities and towns the tools they need to address flooding in a local context and then encourage the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to apply lessons learned nationwide. In the Senate, the bill is sponsored by and U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

“The impacts of flooding cannot be understated. In communities around the country, especially Illinois, it leads to severe property damage and ultimately a significant cost to homeowners. In fact, even just a few inches of rain can be dangerous when combined with an out of date and inadequate understanding of the type and location of floods we face,” said Quigley. “I’m proud to have authored this bipartisan legislation to give cities and towns the resources and tools they’ll need to address flooding challenges. This is not the first time we have brought this bill to the floor, but it must be the last. As the effects of climate change increase, the damage and severity of future floods could be unthinkable.”

Urban flooding frequently occurs outside the regulatory floodplain, and FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) do not always accurately indicate flood risk in these areas, resulting in uncertainty of the hazards at hand.  The Illinois General Assembly conducted a study in June 2015, which examined flood insurance claims in the state and revealed that more than 90 percent of urban flooding damage claims from 2007 to 2014 were outside the FIRM floodplain. 

By providing demonstration grants for cities to invest in innovative mapping technologies, the Flood Mapping Modernization and Homeowner Empowerment Pilot Program Act of 2021 allows constituents the opportunity more accurately assess their flood risks.  The legislation also allow them to develop better communication tools, urban design measures, and flood mitigation policies that would put them in a stronger position to protect their communities.  Once each pilot program expires, the information gathered and lessons learned would be sent to Congress and FEMA to fully assess each city’s best practices and to apply them to FEMA’s National Flood Mapping Program.

In 2015, Rep. Quigley and Sen. Durbin introduced the bicameral Urban Flooding Awareness Act to address increased flooding in urban communities and to find solutions for the urban communities impacted. It created, for the first time, a federal definition of urban flooding and requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with related Federal agencies, to conduct a nationwide study of urban flooding and flood damage in order to develop flood prevention practices and policies. 

In March 2019, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released the final urban flooding study resulting from the legislation, titled Framing the Challenge of Urban Flooding in the United States.  The study highlights the shared responsibility in mitigating and responding to urban flooding across all levels of government.  The Flood Mapping and Modernization Act and Homeowner Empowerment Pilot Program Act of 2021 would assist communities in more accurately understanding and mapping their flood risks while sharing their findings with FEMA at the federal level, to benefit localities across the country.