Floodplain Permits


Floodplain Permits Administration

Both a STATE & LOCAL floodplain permit is required for all construction activity in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or that area inundated by the 1% annual chance of a flood.  These SFHAs are designated as A, AE, A1-A30, AH or AO Zones on the FIRMs (Flood Insurance Rate Maps).  This includes new or substantially improved residential and non-residential (commercial) structures and bridges, as well as excavation and fill.

Local floodplain ordinances may be more stringent than state and federal regulations, but not less than.


Nothing may be placed within a floodway that will cause any rise in Base Flood Elevation (BFE).  The BFE is defined as the water surface elevation inundated by the 1% annual chance flood.  A no-impact certification is required.

Residential Development & Substantial Improvement in SFHAs (A Zones)

  • The lowest floor of any new construction or substantially improved structure (including basement) must be elevated to or above the BFE.
  • Fully enclosed areas below the lowest floor require at least a minimum of two (2) openings, having a total net area of not less than 1 square inch per square foot of enclosed area.  The bottom of the openings shall be no higher than 1 foot above grade.
  • The applicant must submit an Elevation Certificate to the floodplain administrator when the building foundation is complete.

Manufactured Homes in SFHAs (A Zones)

  • Outside of an existing manufactured home park or subdivision in A Zones; the requirements are the same as for site-built homes.  Manufactured homes must be anchored to a permanent foundation.
  • Within an existing manufactured home park or subdivision (see definition in ordinance) in A Zones; the community has the option of either requiring the home to be elevated to or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE), or requiring the home to be elevated on reinforced concrete piers, blocks, etc., to at least 36 inches above grade.  In the event of substantial damage (over 50% of pre-damage value), a replacement manufactured home must be elevated to or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).

Residential Development & Substantial Improvement (A Zones)

  • The building must be elevated; in lieu of elevation, the building may be floodproofed to a minimum of one (1) foot above the BFE.
  • If floodproofed, the applicant must submit an “as built” Floodproofing Certificate certified by a professional engineer or architect.


General note: DO NOT grant variances unless completely justified!

  • Exception: Variances may be issued for the repair or rehabilitation of historic homes upon determination that the proposed repair or rehabilitation will not preclude the structure’s continued designation as a historic structure, and the variance issued is the minimum needed to preserve the historic character and design of the structure.


Permit Procedures

The DOW is authorized through KRS 151 to manage development in floodplains.  Any type of development in, along, or across a stream requires a floodplain permit from the Division.  Typical activities requiring a permit include, but are not limited to, residential & commercial structures, stream crossings, fill, stream alterations & relocations, and small stream impoundments.   Link to the DOW’s website for the Floodplain Permit and information

  • Local permit applications are an NFIP requirement to ensure that development meets local ordinance requirements.
    • Local ordinances may go above & beyond State requirements.
  • Things to consider (link to definitions):
    • Type of development
    • Flood zone & Floodway
    • Base Flood Elevation (BFE)
    • Freeboard, setbacks, etc.
    • Structure’s lowest floor
    • Cost vs. Market Value
      • Substantial?
    • A local permit must be issued in conjunction with State permit
      • If not, State permit is null & void
  • Determine if project meets the definition of development in your community’s ordinance
  • Floodplain Determination
    • If YES, a state AND local floodplain permit is required
    • If NO, no further action is needed
  • Determine what permit(s) are required. Obtain these first.
    • USACE, KDOW floodplain, water quality, endangered species, etc.
    • Provide guidance to applicant for applicable federal and state applications
    • Require local floodplain development application
      • Provide guidance to applicant for local application
    • Issue Local Floodplain Permit based on application & ordinance
      • Should be on community letterhead with CEO or the local floodplain coordinator’s signature


When do I need a Permit?

A permit is required before construction or development begins within any Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).  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. 

In Kentucky, to build, develop, or repair in a floodplain, both the DOW and the local permitting agency require permits

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.

The Commonwealth requires a Stream Construction Permit for any development in areas along or across a stream, up to the one square mile drainage area, and is not limited to the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) as shown on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs).

The state also requires that substantial improvements to a structure be based on a 1-year period in which the cumulative cost of construction equals or exceeds 50% of the structures fair market value.  Substantially improved structures will be required to bring the entire structure up to current minimum NFIP standards.


Link to Alex VanPelt’s KAMM presentations:


Kentucky DOW Resources

For additional information on the following topics, link to DOW’s Understand Your Flood Hazards

  • Basic Floodplain Permit Requirements
  • Kentucky Division of Water Floodplain Management
  • Floodplain Compliance
  • Floodplain Construction
  • Floodplain Construction Forms


Kentucky Floodplain Administrator’s Handbook

January 11, 2017

The Division of Water announces the publication of a revised Kentucky Floodplain Admin Handbook – Revised 2016 updated to inform floodplain administrators and local officials about the NFIP, permit requirements and provides sample forms.  The Handbook outlines the floodplain management process, floodplain regulations, permit procedures, and flood mapping. 

Local Floodplain Administrators will find the following of specific interest:

  • Introduction & overview of the NFIP program
  • Administration & duties for local floodplain managers
  • Definitions and acronyms
  • Floodplain regulations at the Federal, State, & Local levels
  • Overview of Executive Order 13690, Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, and the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014
  • Overview of flood maps and the Risk MAP Program, including Letters of Map Change (LOMC)
  • Introduction to the Community Rating System (CRS)

The revised Appendix includes:

  • Sample local floodplain application & locally issued permit
  • List of required permits
  • Elevation Certificate & Floodproofing Certificates
  • Floodway ‘No-Rise’ Certification
  • Letter of Map Change forms
  • Links FEMA’s Technical Bulletins 

For more information: contact Alex VanPelt, CFM; NFIP Coordinator, Division of Water, Alex.VanPelt@ky.gov.


Kentucky’s Typical Permits at a Glance – Available

January 2015

The Division of Compliance Assistance (DCA) has published a new document that covers the major permits and authorizations typically issued by the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (DEP).  The At-a-Glance document provides information on understanding permits and the most common permits and authorizations issued.  Click TypicalPermitsAtaGlance to read or download the document.


Floodplain Management in Kentucky Quick Guide

This Quick Guide will help you understand more about why and how communities in the Commonwealth of Kentucky manage floodplains and regulate floodplain development to protect people and property.  Floodprone communities adopt ordinances that detail the rules and requirements for floodplain development.   Download the Floodplain Management in KY Quick Guide Web here.