Floodplain Management

Flood Plain Focus 2022

What Is a Floodplain?

Floodplains are low-lying lands adjacent to waterways that are naturally subject to periodic flooding. Special development standards apply to those areas that have been designated as the “100-year floodplain.”

What Is the “100-Year Flood?”

Floodplain development regulations are based on the 100-year flood, which is more accurately described as the flood that has a 1% probability of being equaled or exceeded in any year. Engineering models are used to determine both the area subject to inundation and the height of floodwaters during this model flood event. The area that would be flooded is called the “Special Flood Hazard Area” and is subject to floodplain development regulations. The water height is called the “Base Flood Elevation” and is the basis for development standards within the regulated floodplain area.

Flood Facts

  • Floods are the Number One natural disaster in the United States.
  • In the past 5 years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods.
  • Everyone lives in a flood zone – some at higher risk than others.
  • Homeowners & renters insurance does not cover flood damage.
  • Just a few inches of water from a flood can cause thousands of dollars in damage.
  • In a high-risk area, your home is more likely to be damaged by flood than by fire.
  • Hurricanes, storm surge, winter storms, and snowmelt are common causes of flooding.
  • People outside of mapped high-risk flood areas file over 20-percent of all National Flood Insurance Program flood insurance claims and receive one-third of Federal Disaster Assistance for flooding.
  • In most cases, it takes 30 days after purchase for a policy to take effect, so it’s important to buy insurance before the storm approaches and the floodwaters start to rise.
  • From 2005 to 2014, total flood insurance claims averaged more than $3.5 billion per year.

Know Your Flood Hazard

Flooding sources within Havre de Grace include the Susquehanna River, Lilly Run, Fountain Run, and Gashey’s Creek. The City of Havre de Grace Department of Planning provides information about the Havre de Grace Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM). Property buyers, sellers, real estate agents, lenders, or insurance agents may contact Planning staff for assistance with determining if a property is located in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), what the estimate Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is for a property, information about historic flooding, LiMWA’s, V-zones, the floodway, and natural floodplain functions in a specific area. If requested, a staff member will visit a property to review its flood problem and explain ways to help prevent flood damage. For assistance with flood maps or property reviews, please contact the Department of Planning (410) 939-1800 ext 1123 or 1120, or visit us at City Hall between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.

You can also visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Map Service Center at: https://msc.fema.gov/portal/ , or go the Maryland DFIRM Outreach – Flood Risk Application at http://www.mdfloodmaps.net/dfirmimap/index.html

Insure Your Property for Your Flood Hazard

  • The City of Havre de Grace participates in the National Flood Insurance Program making federally backed flood insurance available to all property owners & renters. Discounts are also available through the Community Rating System (CRS) program participation. Keep in mind that standard homeowner’s insurance policies typically do not cover losses due to flooding. Property owners can insure buildings & contents against flood damage & renters can insure possessions. Condominiums should carry a flood insurance policy on the structure itself.
  • Flood Insurance is recommended for all properties. If your property is now located in the X zone, consider a Preferred Risk Flood Insurance Policy. The NFIP’s Preferred Risk Policy, or PRP, offers low-cost flood insurance to owners & tenants of eligible residential & nonresidential buildings located in moderate- to low-risk areas.
  • Pursuant to the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994, the purchase of flood insurance is mandatory for all federal or federally related financial assistance for the acquisition and/or construction of buildings in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). An SFHA is defined as any A or V flood zone on a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).
  • The mandatory purchase requirement also applies to secured loans from such financial institutions as commercial lenders, savings and loan associa¬tions, savings banks, and credit unions that are regulated, supervised, or insured by federal agencies, such as the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Comptroller of Currency, the Farm Credit Administration, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the National Credit Union Administration. It further applies to all loans purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac in the secondary mortgage market.
  • For questions and answers about the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) go to: https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program
  • This website may also help you to find reasonable steps to help lower your insurance premiums: http://www.riskreductionplus.com/

Protect Yourself and Your Family:

After getting flood insurance, there are several things you can do to minimize losses in your home and ensure your family’s safety before a flood:

  • Safeguard your possessions
  • Prepare your property for the storm – disconnect electrical appliances and turn off gas valves.
  • Develop a family emergency plan – don’t forget the pets!
  • • Sign up for the Connect CTY Auto Call System. To register, call City Hall (410)939-1800 ext 1130.
  • Sign up for the Harford County Emergency Alerts System: https://harfordcounty.bbcportal.com

Hurricane Season runs June 1 through November 30 in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center’s main page provides you with current forecasts, radar and satellite links, storm tracking tools, and tips regarding preparation. The National Hurricane Center is our primary source for tropical cyclone news and information. Please check out their website!

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During or after flood events:

  • Avoid walking or driving through floodwaters.
  • Do not drive over bridges that are over fast-moving floodwaters.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

Protect Your Property

There are many ways to protect property from flood damage. Make sure your new building is constructed to meet or exceed code requirements. These include requirements for elevation of building, foundations, venting, etc. There are also ways to retrofit existing buildings to increase protection.

  • ELEVATION: Raising structure to bring it above floodwater level.
  • FLOOD VENTS: Install and maintain proper flood vents at the correct elevation above the surrounding grade.
  • CLOSURES: Involve techniques for protecting gaps left open for daily convenience, such as walks, doors, driveways.
  • SEALANTS: Can be applied to walls & floors to keep water from penetrating.
  • UTILITY PROTECTION: Flooding sometimes causes costly damage to utility systems. By elevating utilities or shielding them, flooding can be avoided. Moving utilities to less flood-prone locations can also minimize damage. See FEMA publication: Protecting Building Utility Systems From Flood Damage https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1489005878535-dcc4b360f5c7eb7285acb2e206792312/FEMA_P-348_508.pdf

Build Responsibly

  • City Code requires a building permit be obtained for nearly all construction, structural repair work, and placement of accessory structures. Within the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), an additional permit may be required by the Maryland Department of Environment. Any impervious surface cover may affect your property or neighboring properties during heavy rains.
  • Be sure your contractor is licensed by the State of Maryland, Home Improvement Commission or Homebuilders Registration Unit. A business or commercial construction license issued by the Clerk of the Circuit Court is not an acceptable license for residential home improvement. Be aware of home improvement scams. If you did not solicit the contractor or salesman who shows up at your door unannounced, do not do business with that person.
  • To check a Maryland Home Improvement License go to https://www.dllr.state.md.us/cgi-bin/ElectronicLicensing/OP_search/OP_search.cgi?calling_app=HIC::HIC_qselect

Protect Natural Floodplain Functions

Havre de Grace has a storm drainage system which is composed of both open and closed segments. Maintenance of these systems is very important. Debris in ditches and streams obstruct the flow of water which can cause overflow onto roads and into yards. Partial or complete filling in of these ditches can reduce the flood flow capacity, which will also result in overflow into roads or onto private property. Improper pouring of wastes into storm drains directly impacts our drinking water and our environment. Remember: our drinking water comes directly from the Susquehanna River. The three tributaries: Lilly Run, Fountain Run and Gashey’s Creek all carry untreated stormwater runoff directly into the Susquehanna River.

Besides the FEMA mapped floodplain areas and streams within our City, there are also numerous wetland areas (areas that are inundated or saturated by surface or ground water).   Wetlands are indispensable for the countless benefits or “ecosystem services” that they provide to flood control, groundwater recharge, and climate change mitigation.  We can help to protect our Natural Floodplain Function areas by planting only native species plants, removing invasive species, avoiding use of chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides, and removing pet waste properly.

See also our website page on Stormwater Management: havredegracemd.com/stormwater-management/

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Floodplain 041916 City Wide

View Floodplain Map 

Additional Information

Flood protection references and brochures are available at our local public library or at City Hall.

Additional FEMA Publications: