May 12, 2021

Duckworth, Durbin, Quigley & Rubio Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Map Urban Flooding & Help FEMA Better Assess Risks


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL-05) today introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Flood Mapping Modernization and Homeowner Empowerment Pilot Program Act of 2021. The bill would enhance the mapping of urban flooding to prevent associated damage and help give cities and towns the tools they need to address flooding on the a local level. 

“Every year, communities in Illinois and across the country struggle to plan for and recover from urban flooding,” said Duckworth. “One of the best things we can do to protect our cities and towns is ensure they have the tools, resources and research they need to prepare for urban flooding. This legislation and the pilot program it establishes will do just that, leading to a better understanding of flood risks in order to better protect home and small business owners and help prevent and mitigate damage caused by urban flooding.”

“Climate change brings record amounts of rainfall to Illinois year after year. Something that is often an afterthought is how increased rainfall effects urban environments, and currently we lack the data needed to develop effective solutions to limit damage,” Durbin said. “I’m proud to once again introduce this bipartisan bill that provides desperately needed data about flood risk in urban neighborhoods and communities. If we can help local government understand the scope of their problem, then we can better develop solutions.”

“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 In fact, even just a few inches of rain can be dangerous when combined with an out of date and inadequate understanding of the type and location of floods we face,” said Quigley.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.”

“Unfortunately, some flooding in Florida is unavoidable, but we can prepare for, and mitigate against, the amount of damage that floods can bring to our cities and towns,” Rubio said. “New and more accurate flood mapping will help local governments, businesses and homeowners make informed, sustainable decisions on flood insurance.”

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.