News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Yes, floods affect DFW. FEMA wants to develop new rules that could affect who gets insurance.

Alan Melson
Urban runoff can lead to flooding in areas far from the Texas coast, including the DFW area.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is charged with insuring homes in floodplains, wants to adapt its construction rules to the present reality of climate change and is seeking public input. New rules would affect Texans living near the coast as well as people far inland — including residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Flooding can devastate homes, families, and communities. And natural disasters are expected to increase.

Now the federal agency charged with insuring homes in floodplains wants to adapt its construction rules to the present reality of climate change. The Federal Emergency Management Agency seeks public input on how its floodplain standards can “better align with current understanding of flood risk and risk reduction approaches.”

A meeting on Wednesday is the third (and final) chance for the public to give verbal comments. Folks can submit written comments until January 27.

Any new rules would affect Texans living near the hurricane-prone coast as well as people far inland. That includes residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“We’re starting to see real problems with what we call urban flooding,” said Sam Brody, director of the Institute for A Disaster Resilient Texas at Texas A&M University.

FEMA wants to know what kind of zoning codes, building codes, and other land use rules communities should adopt in order to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program, which is administered by the agency. It also wants suggestions on how to better protect endangered species from flooding harm.

Groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Association of State Floodplain Managers want FEMA to demand more rigorous building requirements for any communities (and residents) who want to qualify for flood insurance from the feds. Those groups urged FEMA to start the rulemaking process in a January letter.

“Since 1973, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has paid more than $69 billion in flood insurance claims, half of which have occurred in the last 12 years,” the letter said. They asked FEMA “to adequately account for increased flood risk due to climate change and to reflect over 50 years of increased knowledge/experience managing flood risk in the country.”

At the same time, the agency is adjusting what it charges for flood insurance using a new pricing method.

Brody hopes that by pursuing the two updates simultaneously, FEMA will look at the consequences of development in addition to climate change when drafting new rules.

“The biggest driver of flood risk and impact right now is the human-built environment and the spread of impervious surfaces like parking lots, driveways, rooftops, roadways,” said Brody. “A lot of this immediate problem is driven by the way we’ve developed our landscapes without regard for unintended consequences of increased flooding.”

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Bret Jaspers is a reporter for KERA. His stories have aired nationally on the BBC, NPR’s newsmagazines, and APM’s Marketplace. He collaborated on the series Cash Flows, which won a 2020 Sigma Delta Chi award for Radio Investigative Reporting. He's a member of Actors' Equity, the professional stage actors union.