Tuesday, September 30, 2008

U.S. flood insurance endangers Puget Sound salmon, orcas

Environment News Service: The National Flood Insurance Program is pushing orcas and several runs of salmon towards extinction, in violation of the Endangered Species Act, according to a regulatory finding issued today by scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service. The National Flood Insurance Program is implemented by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. Without making the changes called for by the Fisheries Service, cities and counties around the Puget Sound could lose their eligibility for federal flood insurance. A total of 252 Washington jurisdictions currently participate in the flood insurance program, including 39 counties, over 200 cities and towns, and two tribal reservations.

The federal fisheries agency issued the finding, known as a biological opinion, as required by a 2004 federal court decision. In the case National Wildlife Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service, Judge Thomas Zilly of the federal district court in Seattle found that FEMA's flood insurance program encouraged floodplain development and harmed salmon already listed as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act.

He ordered FEMA to consult with the Marine Fisheries Service to ensure compliance with the Act, and the document issued today is the result of that consultation. "We have always known that building homes and businesses in the floodplain was dangerous and economically senseless," said John Kostyack, excecutive director of wildlife conservation and global warming at the National Wildlife Federation. "With global warming causing sea level rise and intensified storms, the risks of such development are now higher than ever. With this decision, we now have a tool for reducing risks to both wildlife and people," said Kostyack…

Ferry boat arriving at the dock in Puget Sound, shot by William Ward, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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