Energy & Environment

Government Report Says FEMA Flood Mapping Program Needs Improvement

The internal audit found that as of late 2016, only 42% of FEMA’s flood maps were up to date.


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A new government report says FEMA’s flood mapping program is outdated and mismanaged.

The report from Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office says that more than half of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps aren’t accurate, and the problem won’t be fixed without some changes. Specifically, the audit found that as of late 2016, only 42% of the flood maps were up to date.

The report says the agency has had problems finishing map projects. Some have been on hold for more than two years.

The audit recommends FEMA make a number of management and oversight changes, some related to tracking spending and working with local partners. Otherwise, the report says, FEMA won't hit its goal of updating at least 80% of the maps.

The agency agrees with the recommendations, saying they are looking for better ways to get through the backlog.

"We are working through them, but it's going to take a little bit of time,” said Larry Voice, a FEMA engineer. He didn’t read the report, but he said this process can take a while, particularly in booming suburban areas.

"Things are changing quickly, maybe there's a lot of growth going on, so there are also some areas where we have big priorities where maybe we have valid [mapped] miles already, but we're worried things have changed and they need to be updated,” he said.

FEMA has prioritized new studies of flood risk in coastal areas. Voice is currently working in Harvey-effected areas, looking at what the storm's unprecedented flooding might mean for the studies.