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Congress Puts FEMA, Highways on the Map

Posted By Nick Palatiello, Thursday, August 09, 2012

Legislation recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama will result in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in geospatial activities.

The "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act” (MAP-21) commonly known as the Highway Bill, included reauthorization of Highway and FEMA Flood programs, enacted on July 6, in one of the most significant geospatial-related legislative actions in years.

In a presentation to MAPPS members and guests at a luncheon during the Esri International Users Conference in San Diego, MAPPS Executive Director John Palatiello said the bill includes numerous provisions sought and recommended by MAPPS. "This bill reflects creative thinking by MAPPS members to develop ideas and recommendations that ultimately became law.” Palatiello also singled out the work of MAPPS government affairs manager John Byrd for successfully shepherding through Congress proposals developed by numerous MAPPS committees and task forces. "We are fortunate to have such effective representation,” he said.

Included in the new law are transportation-related provisions that:

  • strengthens the law against state department of transportation (DoT) competition with the private sector, by mandating that States use the private sector to maximum extent possible for surveying and mapping;

  • clarifies that qualifications based selection (QBS) be used by state DoTs on Federal Highway Administration (FHwA)-funded state DoT projects, not just those construction-related, as FHwA had interpreted earlier law;

  • authorizes a new, robust intelligent transportation systems (ITS) program;

  • creates the "RESTORE” Act, allocating Deepwater Horizon fines and penalties to gulf coast restoration activities in TX, LA, MS, AL, FL, including mapping; and

  • extends the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund that provides money for hydrographic surveys by the Corps of Engineers and NOAA.

The bill also reforms of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) national flood insurance program (NFIP), including numerous MAPPS-initiated provisions initiated in the association’s FEMA task force that:

  • Establishes a FEMA technical mapping advisory council, to include a member of a recognized professional surveying association or organization and a member of a recognized professional mapping association or organization;

  • Requires National Flood Insurance Program rate maps use "the most accurate topography and elevation data available”;

  • Requires FEMA to assess the accuracy of current ground elevation data used for hydrologic and hydraulic modeling of flooding sources and mapping of the flood hazard and wherever necessary acquire new ground elevation data utilizing the most up-to-date geospatial technologies in accordance with guidelines and specifications of FEMA;

  • Requires FEMA to develop National Flood Insurance Program flood data on a watershed basis; and

  • Instructs FEMA to develop a funding strategy to leverage and coordinate budgets and expenditures, and to maintain or establish joint funding and other agreement mechanisms with other Federal agencies, such as USGS, and units of State and local government to share in the collection and utilization of geospatial data among all governmental users.

"MAPPS has long been a leader in public policy initiatives that strengthen the geospatial profession and enhance the use of geospatial technologies, services and data products to improve the quality of life for all Americans. These provisions are another example of the important role MAPPS and its member firms play in the community,” Palatiello said.

A presentation including these and other recent MAPPS accomplishments is available here.

To learn about other legislation affecting the profession, be sure to read "Waiting for Congress” in this month’s issue of Professional Surveyor Magazine.

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