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Battle over building in Puget Sound flood plains

A federal judge is hearing arguments Tuesday over whether to stop the federal government from issuing flood insurance policies for new development in flood-prone areas around Puget Sound.

The National Wildlife Federation alleges the Federal Emergency Management Agency has failed to ensure that its flood insurance program protects endangered salmon and orcas. The group is seeking a preliminary injunction that would temporarily block new development in important habitat areas in about 70 Puget Sound river valley communities.

In 2008, federal fisheries experts concluded that FEMA's flood insurance program encourages destructive construction in floodplains and harms critical salmon habitat. They outlined reforms that FEMA should implement. In court filings, FEMA officials say the agency has complied and made substantial changes to its program.