Changes are on the way for flood plain designations... but no one is sure when yet.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is updating their flood plain maps. They just haven't set a date in stone as to when the new maps will officially take effect.
The NFIP provides funds to subsidize insurance policies for properties built in flood plains. Through the program, insurance companies receive backing for insuring properties in flood plains, but only if the municipality the property is located in has enacted a qualifying flood plain ordinance. The ordinance outlines restrictions and requirements for construction projects in areas designated as a flood plain and requires compliance as a condition of construction permitting.
According to Warren County Planning Director Dan Glotz, some regulations meant to comply with NFIP requirements include restrictions on basement construction, requirements on utility line placement and requiring the lowest regularly used floor of a building to be built above the 100 year flood level.
The 100-year flood level is determined as the level of flooding at which a given area stands an average one percent chance of suffering in any given year. It does not indicate a flood of this magnitude will only occur once in a 100 year period, only that the chance of such a flood is one percent in any year.
"We (county zoning), as part of the zoning ordinance, administer the flood plain ordinance," Glotz noted.
As part of this administration, Glotz said the county verifies the status of properties within a flood plain and require flood protection and damage reduction steps as a part of construction permitting.
"You can build in a flood plain," Glotz said. "But you have to follow the requirements."
The county administers the flood plain ordinance for the boroughs of Clarendon, Sugar Grove and Tidioute and Columbus, Conewango, Eldred, Elk, Glade, Mead, Pine Grove, Pleasant and Southwest Townships. Other county municipalities are not covered under county zoning and must enact their own flood plain ordinance and administer permitting compliance themselves.
According to Glotz, municipalities that fail to adopt an ordinance, "run the risk of being excluded from the program (NFIP) and not having their residents offered insurance."
Whether compliance with flood plain regulations is necessary to allow for a property to be insured in the case of flooding depends on where a property sits on a floodplain map. these maps are maintained nationally by the NFIP and periodically changed and updated.
New NFIP maps were originally set to take effect 2011, Glotz said. That date was then moved to 2013, and has now been moved again to 2015.
"They're telling me it's a moving target," Glotz said. "It could happen sooner."
When the map changes do take effect, municipalities will have to amend their flood plain ordinances to reflect them. Until then, Glotz said current ordinances, "still stand until the new ones are updated and adopted."