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Why should I care about flooding in NH?

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This education module may be used by anyone with an interest in learning more about New Hampshire's floodplain maps, regulations or the National Flood Insurance Program. Please let us know your thoughts as we strive to structure an innovative learning environment for our users.

Floods are New Hampshire's most significant hazard - whether natural or manmade. Flooding in the state often occurs as a result of heavy spring rains, rapid snowmelt, runoff, ice jams, and coastal storms.

Floodplain Management: A brief history on the origins of floodplain management at the national and state level

Floodplain management should be a critical part of a community's land use planning. Simply put, floodplain management encompasses the corrective and preventative measures taken to reduce flood damage. Flood losses can be curbed by controlling floodwater with structures, such as dams, levees and floodwalls. Non-structural measures take a variety of forms and generally include requirements for zoning, subdivision or building, and special-purpose floodplain ordinances. Initially, the government's emphasis was on structural flood control measures, but the amount of flood damages continued to increase. One of the main reasons structural flood control projects failed to reduce flood losses was that people continued to build in floodplains. In response to repeated flood damages, federal, state and local agencies began to develop policies and programs with a "non-structural" emphasis that did not prescribe projects to control or redirect the path of floods. Since the 1960s, floodplain management has evolved from a heavy reliance on flood control or structural measures, to one using a combination of many tools. The creation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968 was a landmark step in this evolution.

The NFIP is a partnership between a community and the Federal government. In communities that participate in the Program, property owners and renters may purchase insurance to protect them against losses from flooding. Communities participate through an agreement to adopt and enforce floodplain regulations designed to reduce future flood risks.

Currently, there are 209 communities (89%) in New Hampshire that participate in the Program. As of April 30, 2010, there are 8,870 flood insurance polices in place with almost 50% in Rockingham County. The amount of insurance in force is approximately $1.6 billion.

Want to learn more? Follow this link: www.fema.gov

What Does It Mean To Be A Participating Community In The NFIP?

A community must enact and implement floodplain management regulations in order to participate in the NFIP. The community's measures must meet regulations set by FEMA. Follow this link to see FEMA's regulations: www.fema.gov. In return, the federal government underwrites flood insurance for the community. The NH Office of Energy and Planning (OEP) has developed several model regulations for communities to use as guidance in crafting their regulations. Please contact OEP if you have any questions on model regulations (603-271-2155).

A participating community commits itself to:

  • Adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance;
  • Issue or deny floodplain development/building permits;
  • Inspect all development to assure compliance with the local ordinance;
  • Maintain records of floodplain development;
  • Assist in the preparation and revision of floodplain maps; and
  • Help residents obtain information on flood hazards, floodplain map data, flood insurance and proper construction measures.

The Office of Energy and Planning is the state coordinating office for the NFIP. As such, the staff are available to:

  • Provide technical assistance to communities;
  • Act as liaison between FEMA and local officials;
  • Offer technical workshops and training;
  • Provide model ordinances and review of local ordinances for compliance with the NFIP standards;
  • Schedule community assistance visits and contacts;
  • Provide assistance to communities interested in lowering their flood insurance premiums through the Community Rating System (CRS) (www.fema.gov); and
  • Provide assistance to communities to reduce repetitive losses from flooding through the Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Program (www.fema.gov).

Information sources used for this module:
Managing Floodplain Development through the NFIP: FEMA Home Study Course, 1998.
NH Floodplain Management Handbook, NH Office of Energy and Planning, 2006.

Development of this site was supported by a FY2006 FEMA Best Practices Grant.