Case Studies in Floodplain Regulation

May 30, 2013

This Georgetown Law student report highlights the efforts of two communities to strengthen regulations after catastrophic flood events: Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Waveland, Mississippi. These case studies discuss the regulatory reforms the communities implemented and the lessons that can be learned from their experience.

An excerpt from the report underscores the opportunity for communities to learn from these case studies:

By increasing regulations, communities can raise awareness of flood risks, promote flood-resilient construction, and shift growth out of flood-prone areas. The current circumstances are ideal for communities that have not yet experienced major flood events to consider strengthening their floodplain regulations. 

First, flood events are only expected to increase in frequency and severity in the coming years. Taking action before impacts occur can help communities avoid losses and ensure that they can more quickly recover.

Second, FEMA is in the process of updating and modernizing Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMS). As communities receive updated FIRMS, they will have to be adopted through legislative processes. For most communities, this includes updating their floodplain ordinance. As long as communities are engaged in a legislative process, they should consider increasing development standards in floodplains to increase their community’s resilience to future flood impacts.

Finally, recent NFIP reforms passed as part of the Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act will result in higher insurance costs over the next decade. Those reforms can be harnessed as momentum to encourage community participation in the CRS. The CRS rewards communities for developing better floodplain maps, and for increasing regulatory standards in floodplains. Combined, these developments create a ripe opportunity for communities to begin to reconsider how they regulate development in floodplains in light of future threats posed by climate change.

The floodplain managers who spearheaded the regulatory changes for both communities highlighted in the case study shared their experiences in a webinar hosted by the Georgetown Climate in December 2012, which is also available below:

Click here for additional resources and information related to the above webinar video.

Case Studies in Floodplain Regulation 6-3-final.pdf

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