Flood Insurance Floodplain Mapping and Land Use Ordinances

In 1968 the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was launched. !t made affordable insurance available to residents in (lood-prone areas. In 1999 more than

18,000 communities belonged to the program. Participating local governments require developers to meet minimum standards designed to avoid damages that might be inflicted by a catastrophic 100-year flood. The program also requires property owners to purchase flood insurance to receive a federally insured mortgage (Myers, 1996). Flood insurance is a means for placing some of the burden of losses onto the people who take (or make) the risk, namely the floodplain users and residents (Alexander, 1993). Communities can participate in a Community Rating System, established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that allows them to show innovative strategies to reduce flood losses in return for lower insurance premiums for floodplain residents.

Before a community can participate in the flood insurance program, the flood hazard must be recognized, assessed, and mapped. These assessments include flood history, cost and types of past flood damages, maps of the limits of the 100-year flood (or other designated flood) on a topographic map, compilations of profiles and cross sections of the river to show the levels of past floods, and compilations of flood frequency curves and locally representative hydrographs.

FEMA works with the state and community governments to identify their flood hazard areas and publishes a Flood Hazard Boundary Map of those areas. When a community joins the NEIP, it must require permits for all construction or other development in these areas and ensure that the construction materials and methods used will minimize flood damage. However, there is not careful monitoring to be sure that reducing flood hazard in a particular area does not increase flood potential elsewhere. Often, the problems are just shifted to different locales. In return the federal government makes subsidized flood insurance available to those whose structures were in the flood hazard area prior to issuance of the flood maps. All others are eligible for flood insurance at actuarial rates. FEMA issues a Flood Insurance Rate Map after the Flood Insurance Study of risk zones and elevations has been prepared (http://floodplain.org/Jan32.htm).

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