Begich Works to Cut Red Tape for Juneau Residents

Tells FEMA one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for homeowners, builders

U.S. Senator Mark Begich is helping Juneau residents cut through bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary regulatory hurdles when it comes to construction in “velocity-zones” or designated coastal areas that face a particular risk of flood or other disasters. 

Begich is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee that oversees regulation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency that regulates v-zones.

Many homes in Juneau are located in v-zones and constructed on fill, which may be technically prohibited by FEMA regulations.  However, both Begich and leaders in Juneau maintain that the granite fill used in Alaska more adequately protects Alaska homes from disaster than the less sturdy sand-based fill used in the Lower 48. FEMA recently forced Juneau to adopt new restrictions on the use of fill in these zones in order to continue participating in the NFIP, which has complicated NFIP eligibility for many Juneau homeowners.  These unnecessary regulations could have negative economic and development consequences for Juneau. 

In a letter sent to FEMA last Wednesday, Begich requested a formal study on the use of different types of fill in v-zones.

“FEMA should understand that one-size-fits all approach won’t work in Alaska,” said Begich. “Their current restrictions on the use of fill in v-zones don’t apply in the same way here and are doing nothing but burdening builders as well as current and potential homeowners. This is why I am asking that FEMA conduct a study as soon as possible to determine whether these regulations really make sense for Alaskans in Juneau.”

FEMA administrators and staff visited Juneau recently to hear concerns from the city. Begich writes:

“My staff and I have been assured on numerous occasions that this study will recognize Juneau’s specific challenges, and I hope this will continue to be the case… I would encourage other members of the FEMA leadership to consider traveling to Alaska to truly understand the implications of Federal regulations on our state.”

A full copy of the signed letter is attached.