Kentucky Floodplain Management


KY Division of Water – Alex VanPelt – Kentucky NFIP Coordinator 

Alex is originally from southern Illinois, where he grew up in a floodplain along the Mississippi River in a small, rural town called Gorham.  He has a B.S. in Forestry and a M.S. in Geography and Environmental Science both from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. His Master’s thesis was about town relocation decisions in response to flood hazards. Alex’s experience includes working approximately six months for FEMA on a presidential disaster declaration in Aurora, IL, which is a western suburb of Chicago. He then took a job with the KY Division of Mine Permits as a permit reviewer for 2 years before coming to KDOW as NFIP Coordinator.  

Alex VanPelt, Environmental Scientist IV, Floodplain Management Branch.  Office: (502) 564-3410  Ex. 4952; Email:


Kentucky Flooding Facts

  • Flooding can occur almost anywhere. The speed and duration of flooding can vary significantly
  • Kentucky experiences– flash floods, stormwater, backwater, and riverine flooding
  • Saturated conditions prior to rain events may exacerbate flooding
  • Flooding may cause fatalities or injuries, disrupt or destroy infrastructure (roads, bridges, culverts, water, wastewater, gas, electric), disrupt drinking water supplies, and cause erosion and landslides

Due to a varied topography and nearly 90,000 miles of rivers and streams, flooding is Kentucky’s most costly natural hazard.  For more information, link to Floods


Floodplain Management in Kentucky

Flooding is Kentucky’s most costly natural disaster, both in terms of financial loss and anguish suffered by victims. People cannot control the weather. We can, however, limit the damages that result from floods through proper floodplain management.

The Division of Water (DOW) is designated by KRS 151 as the state coordinating agency for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). As the coordinating agency, DOW assists local governments and state agencies in answering all questions concerning the program.

Kentucky Regulations

The Commonwealth of Kentucky has taken several steps to reduce the hazard of flooding. Chapter 151 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (approved in 1966) is the state statute that addresses the development of floodplain areas. The most pertinent sections of KRS 151 are:

  • KRS 151.250, which establishes the requirements for obtaining a floodplain development permit.
  • KRS 151.125, which establishes the authority and powers of the secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet to administer KRS 151.
  • KRS 151.320, which requires the judge executive of each county or the mayor or chief executive officer of each city to concurrently enforce with the cabinet, within their respective counties and cities, the provisions of KRS 151.250 or 151.280 and the rules and regulations issued thereunder.
  •  Floodplain permits are issued by the Cabinet pursuant to 401 KAR 4:060 for any development in areas along or across a stream


Typical Floodplain Coordinators Job

  • Make floodplain determinations
  • Notify applicants of required permits
    • Assist applicant with state floodplain application
  • Once federal and state permits have been obtained, review local floodplain permit application
    • A local permit should be Issued or denied based on the local application & the community’s ordinance
    • Inspect development (during and post construction)
    • Ensure compliance/issue stop work orders 


Permit Procedures

  • 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

  • Various other permits may be needed during the recovery process.  
  • Other permits, such as Water Quality Certifications through the Clean Water Act Sections 401 and 404 may also be required.  Link to more info

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.

 Check the Kentucky Business One Stop Portal for more information.  The permitting process is vital to disaster recovery and required for damage reimbursements.  State and federal agencies work together closely during disasters to expedite the permitting process. 

Download the Kentucky floodplain permit here


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,


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.





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