Frequently Asked Questions
- History of floodplain laws in Indiana
- How can floodplain information help you?
- How do I get the floodplain information for a residence or tract of land?
- What is a base flood event?
- What is a base flood elevation?
- What is a floodplain?
- What is the floodway?
- What is the fringe?
- How do I know if my house or property is in a floodplain or floodway?
- What does it mean to me if my house or my property is in the floodplain?
- Why would I want to buy flood insurance on my house or other structures on my property?
- Can I get the flood insurance requirement waived for my property?
History of floodplain laws in Indianaback to top
After several historic floods in the early 1900's that resulted in millions of dollars in flood damage, Indiana leaders adopted legislation to minimize future flood losses for Indiana citizens. From that legislative initiative, a floodplain management law was enacted in 1945. The Division of Water has been charged with administrating the floodplain management law. In doing so, the Division provides technical, engineering, and educational support for floodplain management in the state.
Floodplain information can help a property owner determine their risk of flooding on their property, help a property owner decide if flood insurance is needed for their residence, provide necessary information to the property owner for filing a waiver on flood insurance to FEMA, or can inform property owners about local and state floodplain regulations. Floodplain information can be requested free of charge from the Division.
How can floodplain information help you?back to top
Owning property that is located in a floodplain can cost you more each year than owning property that is not in a floodplain. These costs could include the cost of flood insurance premiums, the cost to apply for construction permits, or the cost for repairs to your home and personal property when you have flooding. Here are some examples of how floodplain information can help you make wise decisions for property that are located in floodplains.
- If you are thinking of buying a house, floodplain information can tell you if the house is in a flood zone. Buying a house in the floodplain may cost you more money each year in insurance premiums to pay for flood insurance and your risk of being flooded is higher.
- If you need to get a loan from a mortgage company to purchase a house, floodplain information can tell you if you will be required to get flood insurance coverage on the house.
- If you wanting to get out of paying flood insurance on a house, floodplain information is required to be submitted with the application that is mailed to FEMA for a Letter of Map Amendment.
- If you want to build a non-residential building, floodplain information can tell you how high you may have to elevate the building in order to get the appropriate local and/or state permits.
- If you are thinking of buying land to build on, floodplain information can tell you if the property is in the flood zone. Before making the decision to purchase a piece of property in the flood zone, be sure to consider that building in a floodplain may require you to get local and/or state permits. Obtaining the appropriate local and state permits can be a very lengthy and costly process. In addition, be aware that state law prohibits the construction of new homes in the floodway and requires that any construction activity in the floodway will require a permit from the DNR, Division of Water. Filing an application for construction in a floodway with the Division of Water can take 2 to 5 months for the review. See What is a floodway? below.
How do I get the floodplain information for a residence or tract of land?back to top
By using the e-FARA Wizard, you can request floodplain information from the Division of Water. If a BFE is found on the Indiana Floodplain Information Portal (INFIP), the Division can issue a written floodplain analysis for your residence or a tract of land as within 5 business days.
What is a base flood event?back to top
A base flood event is referring to flood events that are of historic nature.
The likelihood of the reoccurrence of historic flood events such as a base flood event is statistically calculated. Therefore one can predict that a base flood event has a 1% chance in any year that floodwaters would reach the height of base flood event.
What is a base flood elevation?back to top
The height of the floodwater during a base flood event is measured by identifying the ground elevation at a given point where the floodwaters reached along the waterway. In addition, by analyzing various variables using a complex hydrological computer model, these elevations can be predicted. These elevations are referred to as the base flood elevation or the "base flood elevations". Once these elevations have been established, flood "plains" or more commonly call flood "zones" can be identified on flood maps.
What is a floodplain?back to top
The floodplain is the entire surface of land and channel that floodwaters inundate during a "base" flood event. Floodplains are made up of the floodway and the fringe.
What is the floodway?back to top
The floodway is the channel and the land surface where the floodwaters are rapidly flowing during a base flood event. The floodway limits along a waterway can not be determined by just looking at a floodplain. The floodway limit of a waterway is determined through a complex hydrological computer modeling using a combination of various hydrology data such as rainfall amounts, historical flood events, topography, surface conditions, and soil saturation rates. Many floodways have been determined and identified on FEMA flood maps.
The DNR Division of Water regulates construction activity in the floodways through a construction permit application process. Construction that proposes development, placing fill, or excavating materials in the floodway requires prior written approval before initiating construction. Typical examples of floodway projects subject to DNR review and approval are placing fill, development, excavations, dredging, channel work, bank stabilization, bridges, stream crossings, utility line placement/repair, and residential and non-residential buildings.
What is the fringe?back to top
The fringe is the portion of a floodplain outside the floodway. The fringe is the land surface where floodwaters spill out onto and inundate during a base flood event. The fringe areas during a base flood event are not typically floodwaters that are rapidly flowing but rather floodwaters that pool and only begin to recede as the floodway begins to lower.
How do I know if my house or property is in a floodplain or floodway?back to top
All waterways have a floodplain and a floodway. Some waterways have a wide floodplain and floodway while others waterways may have a narrow floodplain and floodway. Many floodplains and floodways have been identified and are shown as Zone A on the local communities Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) or Flood Insurance Study (FIS). If your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the local planning or zoning official maintains current copies of flood maps for your area. Some floodplains and floodways have not been determined; therefore, they are not shown on the FIRM or FIS maps. For floodplains and floodways that have not been mapped, the Division of Water can perform a site-specific floodplain analysis. To request a site-specific floodplain analysis, a request can be made requested using the e-FARA.
What does it mean to me if my house or my property is in the floodplain?back to top
If your residence or other buildings on your property is in the floodplain, those structures are at risk of being flooded especially during a base flood event. The degree of flood damage can vary greatly depending on the ground elevation that the buildings are built on in comparison to the base flood elevation (BFE).
For example, if the base flood elevation is 975.2 feet, NVGD (National Vertical Geodetic Datum), at your site; and, your house is built on a ground elevation of 970.2 feet, NGVD, you can expect about 5 feet of floodwaters in your residence during a base flood event.
Why would I want to buy flood insurance on my house or other structures on my property?back to top
If your house or other structures on your property is located in a floodplain, flood insurance can pay you for your losses due to floodwaters. Regular house or property insurance will not cover damages from floodwaters. Only flood insurance will reimburse you for damages caused by floodwater.
If you live within a community that participates in the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the mortgage company that you borrow money from to purchase your house is mandated by federal law to require you to obtain flood insurance as a condition the mortgage loan if you are in an identified floodplain.
In addition, if you live in a community that participates in the National Flood Insurance Program and you carry flood insurance on your house or structures, you are eligible for additional federal emergency assistance if you are damaged by a base flood event. That assistance may include money for, temporary housing, food, building repairs, etc.
For communities that do not participate in the National Flood Insurance Program and for home owners that do not carry flood insurance on their home or out-structures, this emergency assistance money for property owners that are damaged by floodwaters is not available to them.
Only about 450 communities in the state of Indiana participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. To see if the community in which you live participates in the NFIP, you can contact your local floodplain administrator or your local building permit official.
Can I get the flood insurance requirement waived for my property?back to top
If you can provide documentation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that your house or other structures are built on natural ground that is higher than the base flood elevation, FEMA will issue you a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) for your property. A LOMA is typically sought by property owners who believe their property has incorrectly been included in a designated floodplain. The key piece of information needed to obtain a LOMA is to demonstrate that the lowest natural ground elevation adjacent to the structure is at or above the base flood elevation for the property.
An official floodplain analysis letter from the Division of Water should be obtained before you send in a LOMA request to FEMA. You can use the e-FARA to obtain an official floodplain analysis from the Division of Water.