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GAO calls on FEMA to improve flood risk mapping program


The Federal Emergency Management Agency flood hazard maps used by insurers and others in flood mitigation efforts do not reflect the best available climate science or include information on current flood hazards, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report issued Monday.

The GAO said some of the challenges associated with FEMA’s maps and flood damage estimates are being addressed, but it may take years to do so for others.

The report said that although the agency has invested millions in developing its risk mapping, assessment and planning program, it “has not assessed the usefulness of these products in increasing community resilience since 2016.”

The report said also that FEMA’s mapping program investments for fiscal years 2012 to 2020 “were greater where flood risk was higher but were lower for areas of higher socially vulnerable populations.”

Among the report’s recommendations are that FEMA update its multiyear plan for the mapping program, establish mechanisms for periodically assessing the usefulness of its non-regulatory products, and consider ways to integrate and leverage available flood risk data.

A FEMA spokesperson said in a statement, “The GAO’s recommendations will be valuable to help us enhance our ability to identify flood risk and promote informed planning and development practices that reduce risk through risk mapping, assessment and planning.”