Local Regulations

Federal and state stormwater and flooding regulations are primarily implemented at the municipal level through building codes and ordinances. Building codes are standards for development or re-development of structures that maintain public health and safety. These codes are set by the International Code Council (ICC), which Pennsylvania has adopted with amendments into the PA Uniform Construction Codes (UCC). The relevant International Codes (known as I-Codes) to water management in PA include the 2015 International Building Codes (IBC), 2015 International Residential Codes (IRC), and the 2015 International Existing Building Code (IEBC). Local governments elect to adopt these codes through local ordinances, which must meet the state standards at minimum but may go above and beyond. The codes are enforced through permitting and inspections by a codes official. Find more information about PA UCC at the PA Department of Labor and Industry and find the UCC codes themselves at UpCodes. For information on local codes, consult your local ordinances.

Many building codes have extra provisions for development in floodplains to protect buildings and people against flood damage. Along with I-Codes, these include the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Flood Resistant Design and Construction Standard 24 (ASCE 24-14) and FEMA regulations that are required as part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Table 1 spells out these NFIP requirements and how each regulation/code meets these requirements.

Requirement FEMA Regulations I-Codes ASCE 24-14
Assure that all other state & Federal Permits are Obtained 60.3(a)(2) IBC 102.2, IRC 102.2 None
BFE Data for > 50 lots or 5 acres 60.3(b)(4) Appendix G (may not be adopted in your state or locality) Not within scope
Definitions 59.22(a)(1) IBC Section A, IRC Section 322 Section 1.2
Designated Floodplain Administrator 59.22(b) IBC 104.1, IRC R104.1 None
FIRM Reference 60.2(b) IBC 1612.3, IRC Table R301.2(1) Section 1.4.1 refers to review of flood hazard maps and studies
Flood Resistant Materials 60.3(a)(3)(ii) IBC 1612.4 refers to ASCE; IRC R322.1.18 1.5.1, Chapter 5, 6.2, 7.5, 8.1, 9.1
Flood Vents 60.3(c)(5) IBC 1612.4 refers to ASCE, IRC R322.2.2, R322.2.2.1 1.5.2, 2.7
Floodways 60.3(d)(3) 1612.4 refers to ASCE, R322.1 refers to ASCE 2.2
Lowest Floor Elevation 60.3(c)(7) IBC 1612 refers to ASCE; IBC R322.2.1 1.5.2, 2.3
Manufactured Homes 60.3(c)(6), 60.3(c)(12)
(existing manufactured
home park)
IRC R322.1.9 Same requirements as any residential structure
Mechanicals 60.3(a)(3)(iv) IBC 1612.4 refers to ASCE; R322.1.6 4.6.1, Chapter 7
Permits Required 60.3(a)(1) if no FIRM,
IBC 101.2, 105.1, 1612.1, IRC R101.2, R322.1 None
Recreational Vehicles 60.3(c)(14) Appendix G, G601.1 (not authorized in floodways) Not within scope
Statutory Authorization 59.22(a)(2) State Authorizing Legislation None
Subdivision Review 60.3(a)(4)(i) Appendix G (may not be adopted in your state or locality) Not within scope
Substantial Damage/Substantial Improvement In Definitions; included
in definition of
New Structure throughout regs
IBC, Chapter 2, Definitions, IRC R105.3.1.1, EB202 Definitions; then incorporated into requirements for new construction
Variances 60.6(a) IBC 104.10.1, IRC 104.10.1, EB104.10.1 None

Table 1. Codes for floodplain management regulations.  Source: Nechamen Consulting, LLC. Presented at the 2019 PAFPM Annual Conference, Harrisburg, PA.

There are other important local ordinances and plans that regulate development’s impact on water resources. These can include stormwater ordinances, floodplain ordinances, comprehensive plans, greenway plans, subdivision and land development ordinances, and zoning ordinances. PA Act 167 requires counties to create stormwater management plans and a model stormwater ordinance for municipalities to implement the county stormwater plan on the local level.  Find out if your county has completed their Act 167 plan and ordinance on our Planning Documents page. Floodplain ordinances are required of all municipalities that are part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). FEMA has provided guidance for local floodplain ordinance administration in FEMA Publication 480: NFIP Floodplain Management Requirements – A Study Guide and Desk Reference for Local Officials (February 2005), Unit 7: Ordinance Administration. There is also free assistance for ordinance development through PA Municipal League (PML) – contact Leslie Rhoads for information.

Learn More on Regulations, Funding Sources, and Stormwater Plans 

PA Act 167 Grants and Funding Planning Documents