Flooding Regulations

Local Floodplain Ordinance

As part of the NFIP, communities must adopt and enforce a local floodplain ordinance, in exchange for flood insurance eligibility. This ordinance is meant to regulate development activities in the floodplain, through building codes and zoning laws. Some communities find it easier to regulate all properties to the same standard, rather than regulate just the properties in the floodplain. The local floodplain administrator should be the one to handle all matters related to the floodplain ordinance.

The local floodplain ordinance must meet the NFIP minimums but it is encouraged to go beyond. The Model Floodplain Ordinance provides guidance on the minimum requirements. Regulations build cumulatively under the NFIP, according to flood zone designations on the FIRMs. There are four state model ordinances, divided by the level of regulation:

  • Level A regulates to 44 CFR 60.3(a) – community has no map
  • Level B regulates to 44 CFR 60.3(b) – community has a map from FEMA (a FIRM)
  • Level C regulates to 44 CFR 60.3(c) – community has FIRM, flood insurance study (FIS), and base flood elevation (BFE)
  • Level D regulates to 44 CFR 60.3(d) – community has FIRM, FIS, BFE, and mapped regulatory floodway

Permitting and Building Codes

Permitting is a key part of the NFIP – the local floodplain ordinance regulates development in the floodplain through permitting to reduce flood risk and loss for the community. It is the floodplain manager’s job to ensure that all development in the floodplain complies with the local floodplain ordinance. Your community should have an appeals process for permitting decisions. Every decision should be backed up with why the development was approved or denied.

Variance, or a waiver from complying with the floodplain ordinance standards, is determined by the community but should be reserved for specific instances. Variances can increase the risk of flooding so all variance decisions must be backed with evidence on the decision and still promote sound floodplain management. Insurance rates are based on actuarial risk and are not modified when a variance is granted.

Floodplain Manager Responsibilities

The position of the floodplain administrator manager is specified in your local floodplain ordinance. It is often the codes enforcement officer. Floodplain Manager duties include:

  • Require, review, and evaluate floodplain development permit applications
  • Review elevation certificates for completeness and accuracy
  • Review development plans for compliance with floodplain ordinance
  • Maintain and update administrative forms
  • Maintain floodplain maps and flood data
  • Maintain records of development in floodplain
  • Take enforcement actions
  • Interact in the appeals and variance process
  • Collect fees
  • Investigate complaints
  • Complete biennial reports sent by FEMA
  • Coordinate map appeals and revisions
  • Disseminate floodplain management information
  • Complete annual report for state

Non-compliance with NFIP regulations can be handled three different ways by FEMA:

  • Reclassification under the Community Rating System (CRS), if part of CRS.
  • Probation from NFIP – temporary until violations have been remedied, potential for surcharge of $50 added to each insurance policy for up to one year; if violations not addressed, community can become suspended.
  • Suspension from NFIP – removal from the NFIP, all insurance premiums must be paid in full

Explore Federal, State, and Local Regulations

Flooding Resources Regulations