If you want to build a new home in a floodplain area you need to make special plans to ensure that it will not suffer flood damage. It is just as important to make sure that it is properly removed from the floodplain. You do not want to be required to purchase flood insurance on it. The average flood insurance policy costs $700 per year. A mistake in handling this can easily cost you several thousand dollars during the time you will be in the home. There are ways to both limit the risk of flooding and not be required to pay the high cost of flood insurance. For new construction both the land and the home must be properly raised above the 100 year Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
This is a logical and common sense approach. If the property is higher than the 100 year Base Flood Elevation (BFE), then the new house should have a low risk of suffering flood damage. Prudent property owners and builders will make sure the area is raised higher than the BFE to minimize flooding risk. Lincoln County also require this.
If you don’t want to pay flood insurance you must also get the property removed from the flood plain, which you must do this before you build. Doing things in the proper order is very important.
- It is required (due to the elevational data requested) that a land surveyor or civil engineer is hired to work through the removal process with FEMA.
- Have the building site surveyed to determine if the existing ground is above or below the BFE. The Flood Insurance Rate Maps are normally pretty accurate but occasionally they contain mistakes. An area that is naturally high can be incorrectly shown in the SFHA.
- If the natural ground is above the BFE and no Fill was placed to raise it above that level, then you need to obtain a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA). If Fill had been placed or needs to be placed, then you need to get a Letter of Map Revision based on Fill (LOMR-F).
- An Elevation Certificate will be required for new construction and possibly insurance rates.
- Make sure the Floodplain Manager (with the County) get a copy. Its not a guarantee one is sent to the county but recommended by the developer to provide in order to have a concrete documentation.
Getting a LOMA when no fill is required:
If the survey shows that the building site is naturally above the BFE then you should go through the LOMA process to get the portion of the site where the building will be constructed removed from the SFHA. FEMA does not charge a fee to process LOMAs and they have up to 60 days after receiving a request to make a determination. If you provide a LOMA prior to construction you may not need a floodplain permit for construction.
Getting a LOMR-F when fill is placed:
If the survey shows the area where the house will be built is currently below the BFE then fill will be needed to raise the site. This will require you to go through the LOMR-F process. A LOMR-F is also required whenever fill has already been placed to raise the site above the BFE. The LOMR-F needs to be obtained for the area of the house before you start digging the foundation.
When fill is needed you need to first check with your local floodplain administrator to determine if a floodplain fill permit is required. Lincoln County requires a permit before you can place any fill in a floodplain area. This normally involves completing an application and preparing a sketch showing where you plan to place fill and how much.
After you obtain the fill permit you can place the dirt. Then you call the surveyor back to take measurements of the completed fill. He will prepare drawings showing as-built conditions and certify the elevations so they can be submitted to FEMA.
FEMA also requires that the local floodplain administrator sign a Community Acknowledgment Form. This basically says that fill was placed properly and the property is reasonably safe from flooding. If you don’t get the floodplain fill permit before filling the property you could run into trouble with the local authorities at this point. In addition, FEMA charges a processing fee for a LOMR-F. The normal charge is $525.00 for a single lot request.
Did you notice that FEMA has between 60 and 90 days to respond, depending on the request? FEMA does not offer a special “rush” service for processing these. Don’t expect a quick turnaround. Based on my experience they generally take 6 to 8 weeks to get a final determination. Lack of planning on your part is not an emergency of FEMA’s part. They process cases in the order they are received. It does no good to call FEMA to ask them to speed up the review of your case.