WASHINGTON - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced today a new Scientific Resolution Panel (SRP) process to strengthen FEMA's commitment to using the most reliable science and data to determine flood hazards for communities across the nation.
FEMA regularly updates Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) in coordination with local communities to ensure they reflect the best available flood hazard data. FEMA works with communities to develop updated maps and allows communities to submit conflicting scientific or technical data during a regulatory appeal period. Routinely, FEMA and the community work together to come to a resolution. However, now when a resolution cannot be reached, an independent panel of experts may be convened to review the data and provide a recommendation to resolve the dispute.
"Our goal has been and always will be the safety of the communities we serve and part of that commitment is providing communities with the best available data about the flood risk they face," said Ed Connor, Acting Assistant Administrator for Mitigation. "We are proud of the work we do with communities across the country, and these Scientific Resolution Panels will serve an important step in the rare instances when there is disagreement over the scientific accuracy of the data."
Communities requesting to bring their technical and scientific data to the panel under this new process must allow at least 60 days of collaborative consultation without a mutual resolution; have submitted an appeal or protest during the 90-day regulatory appeal period; and not have received a Letter of Final Determination. Communities that have already submitted appeals or protests but, as of November 1, 2010 have not been issued a Letter of Final Determination, will have until January 15, 2011 to request an SRP.
For each technical dispute, the panel sponsor will identify a list of potential scientific and technical subject matter experts in relevant fields of flood studies to serve on these panels. Each panel will consist of three or five experts. The local community will select the simple majority of panel members, and FEMA will select the minority of panel members. The panel sponsor will ensure panelists have no personal or professional interest in the findings of the panel. FEMA contracted the National Institute of Building Sciences, an independent non-profit organization, to serve as the panel sponsor.
Individual panels will review FEMA's data, review the data submitted by the community, and render a decision within 150 days of being convened. The panel's decision will become the recommendation to the FEMA Administrator for resolution.
With Congressional guidance and direction, FEMA continues to update Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and work closely with communities to ensure that flood maps are based on the best data available.