FEMA settlement may enhance sea turtle protections, but may also complicate flood insurance
In an important settlement agreement, the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed to consult with NOAA Fisheries on the impacts of flood insurance upon nesting sea turtles. See Fort Myers News Press; Insurance News. According to theMiami Herald, "Environmentalists hope a legal agreement will limit federal flood policies for new coastal development and force owners to rebuild heavily damaged beachside homes at their own risk."
National Wildlife Federation v. Fugate, Case No. 1:10-cv-22300-KMM (S.D. Fla. Jan. 20, 2011).
WHEREAS, Plaintiffs National Wildlife Federation and Florida Wildlife Federation commenced this lawsuit on July 13, 2010, alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA” or “Federal Defendants”) violated Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) by not consulting with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) or the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) on the impacts of the National Flood Insurance Program (“NFIP”) in Florida on the following five sea turtle species listed as threatened and endangered under the ESA in Florida: (1) loggerhead sea turtle, (2) green sea turtle, (3) hawksbill sea turtle, (4) leatherback sea turtle, and (5) Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Specifically, Plaintiffs have alleged that FEMA has failed to consult with the FWS and NMFS under Section 7(a)(2) of the ESA to ensure that the NFIP does not jeopardize the continued existence of the above named species, and that FEMA has also failed to use its authority to carry out programs to conserve these listed species as required by Section 7(a)(1) of the ESA; ...
Within eleven (11) months of the completion of an entry of an Order on this Settlement Agreement FEMA will prepare and submit a biological assessment (“BA”) to the FWS and the NMFS on the effects of NFIP on threatened and endangered sea turtles in coastal areas of Florida, and FEMA shall provide the Directors of the FWS and NMFS a written request to initiate formal consultation with FWS and NMFS, pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 1536(a)(2); 50 C.F.R. § 402.14(c), on the impacts to the five ESA-listed species identified in Plaintiffs’ complaint of (i) FEMA’s implementation of 42 U.S.C. § 4102(c); (ii) the mapping of the floodplains and revisions thereof 42 U.S.C. § 4101(a)(1), (a)(2), and (iii) the implementation of the Community Rating System, 42 U.S.C. § 4022(b)(1). FEMA will not withdraw its biological assessment or withdraw from consultation.
Coastal development, like this project in Walton County, Florida, has significant effects upon sea turtle nesting habitat.