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FEMA praises Houston’s new floodplain regulations

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are praising Houston’s new rules on building in flood-prone areas, a week after the City Council took a contentious 9-7 vote on the issue.

All new construction in the city’s floodplains will have to be built two feet above the projected water level in a 500-year storm throughout the 500-year floodplain, the area at risk of inundation in a storm with a 0.2 percent chance of happening in any given year. The rules will take effect Sept. 1.

“This is the type of proactive solution that will help Houston lead the way in preparing for potential crises,” said Kevin Hannes, federal coordinating officer for FEMA’s Texas recovery. “Keeping residents safe and creating resilient communities requires forward-thinking to lessen the impact of inevitable future weather events.”

A sampling of the debris that lined much of Houston streets in September 2017, as seen from the Houston Chronicle’s drone.

Media: Mark Mulligan, Houston Chronicle

FEMA said more than 132,620 property owners in Houston have active flood insurance policies providing $36 billion in coverage.

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The head of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, Roy Wright, also had expressed support for the policy change in an email sent just hours before the council vote.

“In order for the nation to be more resilient, many communities will need to take these forward-leaning steps,” he wrote. “We will be looking to Houston to lead the nation in its resilience and capacity to shape policies that keep citizens safe through all hazards.”

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