FEMA, NOAA-National Marine Fisheries (NMFS), Puget Sound Partnership and other partnering organizations held a two day conference March 1st and 2nd in Edmonds in an effort to help local governments, technical consultants and other NGOs understand options for implementing the Biological Opinion ("BiOP") issued by NMFS in September 2008 regarding FEMA's implementation of the National Flood Insurance Program.
Approximately 300 people attended the conference, during which representatives of FEMA, NMFS and several local governments rolled out the various process options for local governments to demonstrate compliance with the BiOp by the September 22, 2011 deadline. In many instances, the conference raised more, or at least as many, questions as it answered, particularly as federal officials attempt to explain how the BiOp does or does not fit with existing state and local regulations (e.g., the Shoreline Management Act and the Growth Management Act).
Local governments continue to seek the most efficient means to integrate the BiOp provisions into their regulatory scheme. At this point, it seems improbable that most local governments will meet the September 2011 deadline. But property owners and project applicants should except local jurisdictions to step up their BiOp compliance efforts immediately by requiring more habitat assessments, increased mitigation, and in some cases even denying projects that just a few months ago would have survived environmental scrutiny.
For more information regarding the processes that will be used by local governments over the next several months to implement the BiOp, or how that BiOp implementation may affect your property, feel free to contact me.