Floodplain management: Yes, it is important for everyone in Ohio

As I drive by our streams, which are at higher water levels due to the rains from Hurricane Sandy, I can’t help but see how much flood damage could be avoided.

Floods are a natural and unavoidable fact of life along streams and rivers. Loss of life and property damage can result when people choose to build their homes and other types of structures in the floodplain.

 Flood threats

No area in Ohio is free from the threat of flood-producing storms. In fact, flooding occurs in Ohio every year, although the location and seriousness vary according to weather and ground conditions.

 Large floods in Ohio, such as those experienced in 1913, 1937, 1959, 1963, 1964, 1969, 1990, 1997, and 1998 have caused the loss of many lives as well as costing billions of dollars worth of property damage.

Most every county has adopted some sort of regulations for areas of special flood hazard (SFHA). In most cases, it is unlawful for any person to begin construction or other development activity including but not limited to filling; grading; construction; alteration, remodeling, or expanding any structure; or alteration of any watercourse wholly within, partially within or in contact with an identified special flood hazard area, until a floodplain development permit is obtained.
Development in SFHA must follow different specifications to be in compliance with most regulations.

Don’t ignore flood regulations

Too many times these regulations are neglected and ignored, and then there is a terrible flood and local citizens believe that somebody should pay for their recovery.  I find this very troubling that someone else should pay for our choices! You made the choice to build in a floodplain knowing there is always an inherent risk of flooding. It is clearly a mistake to think that floods can be stopped; that a mortgage will be forgiven if flood damages are high enough; or that government should pay for flood damage recovery of an individual or community that has disregarded their own flood damage prevention regulations.

There is a story about four people, namely Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

No floodplains

I believe this story, provided by Chris Thoms, program manager of the ODNR DSWR Floodplain Management Program, sums up many situations. Landowners need to be responsible for their choices and actions.

I am almost 100 percent positive that there is not one floodplain administrator who will ever recommend that you build in a floodplain. The answer will always be “I highly suggest that you look for an alternative site, or in some cases it will just be No.”

Some regulations completely forbid any development in areas of special flood hazard.
Everyone needs to be aware of the direct benefits of floodplain management; protecting lives and property from flood damage, along with protecting and preserving the beneficial functions of floodplains. Communities adopt regulations to promote public health, safety and general welfare.

Manage flood areas

Communities that agree to manage flood hazard areas may also participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. This is very important. If a community does not participate in the program, property owners in that jurisdiction are not able to purchase federally backed flood insurance. Also, federal grants, loans, disaster assistance, and federal mortgage insurance are unavailable for the acquisition or construction of structures located in the floodplain as shown on the NFIP maps.

The good news is that there are many communities moving forward and limiting their flood risk through things like land use planning. Some are buying flood prone properties and converting these areas to parks and soccer fields that suffer no damage in the case of flooding.

Don’t build in floodplain

Floodplains can provide many benefits, but are almost never ideal sites for any type of structural development.
However, if this is your only available option, please make certain you educate yourself of the regulations and move forward correctly. You should also be aware that by law, anyone with a mortgage from a federally regulated lender is required to buy flood insurance if the house lies in a flood plain.

If you own a flood prone property near a special flood hazard area, you may also be able to purchase flood insurance at a lower cost. More than 25 percent of all flood claims are made for properties that lie outside of the special flood hazard area.

Your choice

Remember, it is your choice to build or buy a home in or near a floodplain; therefore it is your responsibility to protect yourself and realize the financial burden you endure.

If you would like more information on floodplains and regulations a great source of information is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water Resources. ODNR’s floodplain management program is responsible for providing information and assisting local units of government such as ours with floodplain management. Learn more at www.dnr.state.oh.us/water/tabid/3511/Default.aspx.

About the Author

Cathy Berg, Program Administrator for the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District for 15 past years. Bachelor of Science Degree from The Ohio State University. Major in Agronomy with soils specialization and a minor in Natural Resources Management. More Stories by Cathy Berg

One Comment

  1. Great article and advice Cathy! As a former ODNR Flooplain Management Program staffer, I can say with certainty that not only will your advice result in much less misery for future flood victims, but it will also increase the economic sustainability of communities that choose appropriate uses for floodplains. Changes to the NFIP made by Congress this summer are certain to increase costs for those choosing to develop in floodplains – flood insurance rates are going to be rising quickly so that that the program is more actuarially sound.

Leave a Comment

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.

eNewsletter

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Services

Recent News