Flood Risk and Long-Range Planning
Flooding occurs naturally everywhere. Water, gravity, and topography create conditions along a stream or river that cause flooding. Flooding has become a “problem” because we have built our homes, businesses, and communities in areas that routinely flood. The United States has developed a framework to understand flood risk and manage it in communities. Flooding is an existing condition of many communities, and planners have to understand the ramifications of flood risk when considering long-range planning for growth and development.
Flooding takes the most lives and causes the most property damage each year of all natural hazards. An uninsured family that faces just one foot of water in the basement can have their lives upended by being saddled with a $30,000 repair cost. The disruption of lives in flooding events can be prevented, but only if communities proactively address the hazard in their land use plans and decisions.
All natural hazards are addressed by a community’s “hazard mitigation plan,” a required document in order to be eligible for a variety of FEMA’s mitigation funding. Flooding, however, is the most studied hazard and one of the most straightforward to understand and predict. Nearly every community in Nebraska that faces flood risk has had a study conducted to predict the characteristics of a 1% annual chance flood (100-year flood). The “Flood Insurance Study” and the associated “Flood Insurance Rate Map” are the best sources of information. The data in these documents mixed with the data in a community’s hazard mitigation plan provide planners with the tools needed to engage the community in a discussion about growth and development in floodprone areas. Hopefully, the discussion and input would lead to a strong comprehensive plan that increases a community’s resilience to flooding.
A comprehensive plan, according to Nebraska Revised Statutes §19-903, should be the guiding document upon which zoning and other regulations are to be based. The statute specifies that “regulations shall be designed […] to secure safety from flood.” In order to do this, the comprehensive plan should consider flood risk and the growth and development of a community.