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.

Communities incorporate NFIP requirements into their zoning codes, subdivision ordinances, and/or building codes or adopt special purpose floodplain management ordinances.  The NFIP requirements apply to areas mapped as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) issued by FEMA.  The SFHA is the area that would be flooded by the “base flood” (defined as the flood that has a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year; also known as the “100-year flood”).

The NFIP requirements include:

  • Elevation of new and substantially improved residential structures above the base flood level.
  • Elevation or dry floodproofing (made watertight) of new or substantially improved non-residential structures.
  • Prohibition of development in floodways, the central portion of a riverine floodplain needed to carry deeper and faster moving water.
  • Additional requirements to protect buildings in coastal areas from the impacts of waves, high velocity, and storm surge.

These requirements are the most cost-effective way to reduce the flood risk to new buildings and infrastructure.  Structures built to NFIP standards experience 80 percent less damage than structures not built to these standards and have resulted in $1.2 billion per year in reduced flood losses.

In addition to protecting new buildings, the NFIP substantial improvement and substantial damage requirement ensures that flood protection measures are integrated in structures built before FIRMs were developed.  A building is considered substantially improved or substantially damaged when the cost of improving or repairing the building equals or exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the building.  When this occurs, the community, which makes the determination, must ensure that the NFIP requirements are applied to these building so that they are protected from future flood damages.


FEMA Laws and Regulations and the NFIP

The NFIP regulations, a part of the 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.

Specific CFR

CFR 60.3 – Flood plain management criteria for flood-prone areas  requirements

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

Certain activities (e.g., floodproofing design, survey of building elevations, hydrologic and hydraulic analyses, survey and topographic data) require certification by a licensed professional architect, engineer, surveyor, or the community floodplain administrator.


Elevation Certificate

Cover photo for the document: National Flood Insurance Program Elevation Certificate and Instructions A community’s permit file must have an official record that shows new buildings and substantial improvements in all identified Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) are properly elevated.  The NFIP Elevation Certificate  is an administrative tool of the NFIP which is to be used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with community floodplain management ordinances, to determine the proper insurance premium rate, or support a request for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or a Letter of Map Amendment based on fill (LOMR-F).  This elevation information is needed to show compliance with the floodplain management ordinance.

FEMA encourages communities to use the Elevation Certificate developed by FEMA to fulfill this requirement since it also can be used by the property owner to obtain flood insurance.  Communities participating in the Community Rating System (CRS) are required to use the FEMA Elevation Certificate.

The EC is referenced in the NFIP Flood Insurance Manual (Special Certifications Section).  The EC form is fillable and can be completed in either Adobe Acrobat Pro or Adobe Reader and saved.

For guidance on Lowest Floor, link here.  


February 21, 2020

FEMA has released a new Elevation Certificate form that is effective immediately, and which has an expiration date of 11/30/2022.

The NFIP Elevation Certificate is used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with community floodplain management ordinances; to determine the proper insurance premium rate; and or support a request for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) to remove a building from the Special Flood Hazard Area.

Link to the Updated Elevation Certificate.


Floodproofing Certificate

Documentation of certification by a registered professional engineer or architect that the design and methods of construction of a nonresidential building are in accordance with accepted practices for meeting the floodproofing requirements in the community’s floodplain management ordinance.  This documentation is required for both floodplain management requirements and insurance rating purposes.

For insurance rating purposes, a building’s floodproofed design elevation must be at least one foot above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) to receive full rating credit for the floodproofing.  If the building is floodproofed only to the BFE, the flood insurance rates will be considerably higher.

Communities are encouraged to use the one-page FEMA floodproofing certification form because it fulfills NFIP insurance rating needs as well as floodplain management requirements.


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).

Related Key Words



NFIP Technical Bulletins

FEMA Technical Bulletins provide guidance concerning the building performance standards of the NFIP, which are contained in Title 44 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations at Section 60.3.  The bulletins are intended for use primarily by State and local officials responsible for interpreting and enforcing NFIP regulations and by members of the development community, such as design professionals and builders.

The bulletins do not create regulations, rather they provide specific guidance for complying with the minimum requirements of existing NFIP regulations.  Users of the Technical Bulletins who need additional guidance concerning NFIP regulatory requirements should contact the appropriate FEMA Regional Office.


Floodplain Management Requirements Study Guide

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)


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.

NFIP, CRS, and Natural Floodplain Functions 

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, NFIP 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.

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.


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