Development in Floodplains?

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In an article entitled “Halt to Development in Flood Plains Sought” in The Seattle Times, dated March 28, 2012, by Phuong Le, The Associated Press, the National Wildlife Federation asked a Seattle federal judge to issue an injunction to stop the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from issuing flood-insurance for certain flood-prone areas in Washington’s Puget Sound area. An injunction would temporarily block new development in various habitat areas around the Puget Sound area.

The Federation alleges that FEMA’s flood-insurance program encourages construction in floodplains where endangered species are being harmed. However, according to FEMA, the Federation hasn’t shown that the Federal flood-insurance program causes harm to the environment.   Undoubtedly, this is an issue that will not be easily resolved and is not unique to the Puget Sound area.

According to the article, FEMA drafted new rules and regulations in 2008 covering both large and small Puget Sound area cities. Additionally, many of the cities have adopted rules and regulations to ensure that building in flood-prone areas does not endanger the habitat. In fact, many states, counties and cities have websites providing information about floodplain permits, development regulations, and floodplain maps.

The official “FloodSmart” site of FEMA provides information about the “National flood insurance program” and other flood risk links including a search by zip code for “flood maps.” The Washington State Governor’s Office of Regulatory Assistance has a website to access “environmental permitting resources” including an information center to answer questions about licenses, approvals and permits.

Hawaii’s “Flood Awareness” website offers links to building permits, elevation certificates, and more. You can view interactive maps by County on Pennsylvania’s “Mapping Status” website. There is an online search by County to check the status of “environmental permit applications” through South Carolina’s Environmental Control office. Wisconsin has a “floodplain management” website providing links to permit history, mapping, ordinances, and flood-insurance.

If you’d like to research your State’s development rules and regulations  for floodplains or flood-prone areas, our “Sustainability and Environmental Health Resources” page provides a search by state and county for “Floodplain Information” or “Floodplain Maps.”  Other public records that might be helpful can be found using our “Free Public Records Search Directory” such as building permits, GIS maps, laws, land records, and more.

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