Federal Floodplain Management


Federal Floodplain Management

FEMA’s website covers a broad range of Floodplain Management topics that includes information on how to join the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), participating in the Community Rating System (CRS) and other topics related to the adoption and enforcement of floodplain management standards.

Link to the Floodplain Management section.  Learn more, link to FEMA 480: Floodplain Management Desk Reference


This study guide and desk reference can serve two purposes.  First, it can be used as a study guide to enhance the knowledge and skills of local officials responsible for administering and enforcing local floodplain management regulations.  It is also intended to broaden their understanding of floodplain management strategies that can be applied at the local level.  Secondly, the study guide can be used as a desk reference that you can refer to when specific issues arise as you implement your management ordinance.  Guidance is included on how to handle many of the issues and information provided that will help you explain the requirements to citizens of your community.

While any interested person may use this study guide and desk reference, it is written specifically for the local official who is responsible for administering his or her community’s floodplain management regulations.

  • Table of Contents (PDF 55KB, TXT 34KB)
  • Unit O: Orientation (PDF 89KB, TXT 6KB)
  • Unit 1: Floodplain Management (PDF 2116KB, TXT 49KB)
  • Unit 2: The National Flood Insurance Program (PDF 386KB, TXT 27KB)
  • Unit 3: NFIP Flood Studies & Maps (PDF 1370KB, TXT 76KB)
  • Unit 4: Using NFIP Studies & Maps (PDF 752KB, TXT 44KB)
  • Unit 5: The NFIP Floodplain Management Requirements (PDF 2836KB, TXT 116KB)
  • Unit 6: Additional Regulatory Measures (PDF 1198KB, TXT 60KB)
  • Unit 7: Ordinance Administration (PDF 1010KB, TXT 108KB)
  • Unit 8: Substantial Improvements & Substantial Damage (PDF 697KB, TXT 41KB)
  • Unit 9: Flood Insurance & Floodplain Management (PDF 534KB, TXT 45KB)
  • Unit 10: Disaster Operations & Hazard Mitigation (PDF 1287KB, TXT 55KB)
  • Appendix A: FEMA Regional Offices (PDF 21KB, TXT 2KB)
  • Appendix B: State Contacts (PDF 78KB, TXT 20KB)
  • Appendix C: References (PDF 25KB, TXT 9KB)
  • Appendix  D: Glossary (PDF 45KB, TXT 26KB)
  • Appendix  E: NFIP Regulations (PDF 209KB, TXT 209KB)
  • Appendix  F: FEMA Forms (PDF 627KB, TXT 31KB)
  • Appendix  G: EMI Courses (PDF 18KB, TXT 4KB)
  • Appendix  H: Learning Checks & Exercises (PDF 299KB, TXT 141KB)


FEMA Laws and Regulations and the NFIP

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulations, a part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulations, are set forth at 44 CFR 59 through 44 CFR 80. These regulations, updated yearly, include, but are not limited to issues related to flood insurance and mitigation, such as community floodplain activities, land management, policy rating and the actual standard flood insurance Policy. F-775 lists the related sections of 44 CFR and includes links to finding those regulations, related laws and other useful sites.  Link here to the  FEMA Laws and Regulations and the NFIP.

The Stafford Act constitutes the statutory authority for most Federal disaster response activities especially as they pertain to FEMA and FEMA programs.  FEMA, through its Office of Chief Counsel, has produced an updated electronic version of the Stafford Act.  Download the Stafford Act, stafford_act_booklet_04 22 13.   Some highlights and new features:  Contains all changes to the Stafford Act since 2007, including the Sandy Recovery Improvement Act (SRIA) of 2013.  The document is optimized for portable tablet devices:  From the Table of Contents, you can click on the statute name or number and you’ll jump to the statutory text.

  • (b) (5) Requirement to Obtain Lowest Floor Elevation in Zone A,  Elevation Data
  • (c) (4) – Floodproofing Certification
  • (c) (5) – Floodproofing Certification
  • (d) (3) – Floodway Encroachment Review and No-rise Certification
  • (e) (2) – Elevation Data


NFIP Statutory Authority

The document attached is the various independent sections of the statutes, that authorize the NFIP, joined together in one statute, updated June 30, 2004. It is comprised of the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004, Public Law 108-264, approved June 30, 2004; the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994, Public Law 103-325, approved September 23, 1994; the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 (As Amended), Public Law 93-234, approved December 31, 1973; the Housing And Urban Development Act of 1969, Public Law 91-152, approved December 24, 1969; and the Housing And Urban Development Act of 1968 (As Amended), 42 USC 4201-4128.  Link here to the NFIP Statutory Authority.


Floodplain Management Links


How to Read a Flood Insurance Rate Map Tutorial

This tutorial educates users on the use and application of the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Each component of the FIRM is explored.  The tutorial includes a section that contains examples of how to get specific information from FIRMs.



Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA)

Definition/Description for Kentucky

The land area covered by the floodwaters of the base flood is the SFHA on NFIP maps. The SFHA is the area where the (NFIP’s floodplain management regulations must be enforced and the area where the mandatory purchase of flood insurance applies. The SFHA includes Zones A, AO, AH, A1-30, AE, A99, AR, AR/A1-30, AR/AE, AR/AO, AR/AH, or AR/A.   Follow the links below:


Permit for Floodplain Development


A permit is required before construction or development begins within any Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). If FEMA has not defined the SFHA within a community, the community shall require permits for all proposed construction or other development in the community including the placement of manufactured homes, so that it may determine whether such construction or other development is proposed within flood-prone areas. Permits are required to ensure that proposed development projects meet the requirements of the NFIP and the community’s floodplain management ordinance.  A community must also review all proposed developments to assure that all necessary permits have been received from those governmental agencies from which approval is required by Federal or State law.




A “Regulatory Floodway” means the channel of a river or other watercourse and the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than a designated height. Communities must regulate development in these floodways to ensure that there are no increases in upstream flood elevations. For streams and other watercourses where FEMA has provided Base Flood Elevations (BFEs), but no floodway has been designated, the community must review floodplain development on a case-by-case basis to ensure that increases in water surface elevations do not occur, or identify the need to adopt a floodway if adequate information is available.

Links to the CFR 60.0 – Criteria for Land Management and Use and  Floodplain management criteria for floodprone areas

  • 60.3 (c) (10) – Cumulative Effects of Development
  • 60.3 (d) (2) – Floodway Adoption
  • 60.3 (d) (3) – Floodway Encroachment
  • 60.3 (d) (4) – Floodway Encroachments that Cause an Increase


No-rise Certification for Floodways


Any project in a floodway must be reviewed to determine if the project will increase flood heights. An engineering analysis must be conducted before a permit can be issued. The community’s permit file must have a record of the results of this analysis, which can be in the form of a No-rise Certification. This No-rise Certification must be supported by technical data and signed by a registered professional engineer. The supporting technical data should be based on the standard step-backwater computer model used to develop the 100-year floodway shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or Flood Boundary and Floodway Map (FBFM).


Encroachment / NFIP Requirement


Encroachments are activities or construction within the floodway including fill, new construction, substantial improvements, and other development. These activities are prohibited within the adopted regulatory floodway unless it has been demonstrated through hydrologic and hydraulic analyses that the proposed encroachment would not result in any increase in flood levels.  The community is responsible to review and maintain record of the documentation demonstrating that any permitted floodway encroachment meets NFIP requirements. A “no-rise certification” for floodways may be used to document the analyses.



Earthen fill is sometimes placed in an SFHA) to reduce flood risk to the filled area. The placement of fill is considered development and will require a permit under applicable Federal, state and local laws, ordinances, and regulations.Fill is prohibited within the floodway unless it has been demonstrated that it will not result in any increase in flood levels. Some communities limit the use of fill in the flood fringe to protect storage capacity or require compensatory storage.


Compensatory Storage


The NFIP floodway standard in 44CFR 60.3 (d) restricts new development from obstructing the flow of water and increasing flood heights. However, this provision does not address the need to maintain flood storage. Especially in flat areas, the floodplain provides a valuable function by storing floodwaters. When fill or buildings are placed in the flood fringe, the flood storage areas are lost and flood heights will go up because there is less room for the floodwaters. This is particularly important in smaller watersheds which respond sooner to changes in the topography. One approach that may be used to address this issue is to require compensatory storage to offset any loss of flood storage capacity. Some communities adopt more restrictive standards that regulate the amount of fill or buildings that can displace floodwater in the flood fringe. Community Rating System credits are available for communities that adopt compensatory storage requirements.


Higher Standard


FEMA has established minimum floodplain management requirements for communities participating in the NFIP. Communities must also enforce any more restrictive State requirements. Any community may exceed the minimum standards by adopting more comprehensive floodplain management regulations. In some instances, community officials may have access to information or knowledge of conditions that require, particularly for human safety, higher standards than the minimum NFIP criteria. Any floodplain management regulations adopted by a state or community which are more restrictive than the criteria set forth in the NFIP regulations are encouraged and shall take precedence. Communities that exceed the minimum requirements of the NFIP may be eligible to participate in the Community Rating System (CRS).


NFIP, CRS, and Natural Floodplain Functions 

Reprinted from the August, 2012 NFIP / CRS Update

One of the most appreciated natural functions of both inland and coastal floodprone areas is their generation and maintenance of aquatic and terrestrial environments that nurture myriad species of plants and animals. Among those species are many that may face extinction, often because of loss of habitat. The Endangered Species Act of 1973 aims to protect such species by prohibiting anyone from “harming” or “taking” endangered species, and it extends similar protections to threatened species. Further, it requires all federal agencies to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of those species.

FEMA does not directly implement the Endangered Species Act—that responsibility rests with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services). However, as a federal agency, FEMA is required under Section 7 of the Act to “insure that any action it authorizes, funds, or carries out is not likely to jeopardize” threatened or endangered species or their habitat. This means that actions conducted by communities, individuals, or others pursuant to a FEMA program may not jeopardize those species or their habitat. Thus, National Flood Insurance Program communities need to avoid modifications to the floodplain—such as fill—that could harm riparian or coastal habitats.

FEMA has established procedures by which applicants for Conditional Letters of Map Revision and Conditional Letters of Map Revision based on Fill (CLOMR and CLOMR-F) document that the Endangered Species Act has been complied with before FEMA will undertake its review of the CLOMR application. In general, that documentation takes the form of an official letter or determination from one of the Services stating either that the proposed action is not expected to affect the species or habitat or that a permit to cause such an impact has been granted. FEMA’s Procedural Memorandum No. 64, “Compliance with the Endangered Species Act for Letters of Map Change,” dated August 2010, lists the Endangered Species Act compliance needed for actions based on floodplain fill in NFIP communities, provides answers to frequently asked questions, and gives links to sources of more information about the Endangered Species Act. Link to http://www.fema.gov/library/viewRecord.do?id=4312.

An analogous situation exists with regard to CRS communities, FEMA, and other federal environmental laws. For local activities that may have an adverse impact on certain species or their habitat, or on water quality, or historical or archaeological features, or wetlands AND for which a community is requesting CRS credit, a community must ensure that it has complied with the applicable federal protective laws. The procedures for documenting this compliance will be clarified when the 2013 CRS Coordinator’s Manual takes effect. Materials accompanying the Coordinator’s Manual will list the federal environmental laws pertinent to the various CRS activities and provide other helpful information.






KAMM mailing address: KAMM, PO Box 1016, Frankfort, KY 40602-1016.

Have questions, contact us at kentuckymitigation@gmail.com.  Don’t forget to join the KAMM group on LinkedIn.