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FEMA Activities That May Trigger Environmental & Historic Review

Items caused by a disaster and the FEMA activities that may require an Environmental or Historic Preservation review.

Debris Removal

Natural and man-made disasters have the potential to generate large amounts and types of debris. Debris removal activities are usually funded under the Public Assistance Program and include the following:

  • Clearance of trees and woody debris
  • Stream clearance
  • Removal of mud and silt deposits
  • Hazardous material collection, removal and disposal
  • Debris storage, staging and removal

Environmental and Historic Preservation Laws and Executive Orders that may apply to debris removal include Floodplain, Wetlands, and Environmental Justice Executive Orders, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, and National Historic Preservation Act. Common environmental and historic preservation concerns include placement of temporary staging sites, permanent storage or disposal of debris, work in bodies of water, and debris that may have historic significance (such as debris from buildings eligible for the National Register of Historic Places).  

Emergency Protective Measures

Emergency Protective Measures are funded through the Public Assistance Program and may include the following:

  • Police, fire, and rescue response.
  • Emergency access and communications.
  • Health and safety measures.
  • Sandbagging, temporary levees or pumping.
  • Emergency demolition and temporary repairs.

Many projects that fall under the category of Emergency Protective Measures, such as reimbursement for police overtime, generally do not involve physical impacts to the environment and therefore do not trigger environmental/historic preservation review. Other projects, such as emergency demolition, may trigger review.

Repair to Pre-Disaster Condition

Environmental and Historic Preservation Review may occur for projects that involve repairing a structure to pre-disaster condition. Structures typically include:

  • Roads and Bridges
  • Water Control Facilities
  • Utilities
  • Parks and Recreational Areas
  • Buildings and Equipment

Typical environmental and historic preservation laws and executive orders that may apply include the National Historic Preservation Act, Clean Air Act, and Floodplains Executive Order. Typical concerns may include historical impacts, air pollution, and redevelopment within a floodplain (if applicable).

Modification, Expansion & Mitigation

Projects involving modification or expansion of existing structures can trigger an environmental and historic preservation review. Such activities include projects that improve a facility, or repair or expand a facility which implement mitigation measures aimed towards reducing damage in future events. Activities involving demolition also trigger a review for environmental and historic preservation considerations.

Typical environmental and historic preservation laws and executive orders that may apply include the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and Floodplains, Wetlands and Seismic Retrofit Executive Orders. Common concerns may include increased air emissions, disruption to historic integrity or function, water discharges and structural soundness (if in an seismically prone region). 

New Construction & Ground Disturbance

Any activities that involve ground disturbance or new construction will trigger a review for environmental and historic preservation considerations. Typical activities usually include:

  • Construction of new facilities
  • Relocating facilities to a new location
  • Mitigation measures such as flood control and vegetation management
  • Construction of group temporary housing facilities

Common environmental and historic preservation laws and executive orders include the Endangered Species Act; Floodplains, Wetlands, and Environmental Justice Executive Orders; The National Historic Preservation Act; Farmland Protection Policy Act; Clean Air Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation; and Recovery Act; and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Usual concerns may include presence of threatened and endangered species, wetlands, archeological artifacts, and hazardous materials as well as impacts on prime and unique soils and floodplains.