Winter 2017 Water Talk

minnesota department of natural resources

Water Talk Newsletter - Winter 2017

December 27, 2017

Zoning Challenge: How Can I Be In the Floodplain?

By Ceil Strauss, MNDNR, State Floodplain Manager

You are the local zoning authority and you get an angry call from a resident. “My bank is telling me I’m in the floodplain and I have to buy flood insurance. That’s crazy! I’ve never been in the floodplain before.” 

What do you tell them?  It depends . . .

What would your answer be for the four scenarios shown below?

Map with elevation contours, floodplain layer and locations of sample sites
Source: MnDNR; background adapted from Anoka County Floodplain Mapper

See answer at bottom of this newsletter.

New Shoreland Ordinance Review Process

By Dan Petrik, MNDNR, Land Use Specialist – Shoreland and River Related Programs

Public meeting audience

Adopting or amending an ordinance can be a major planning project requiring research, public engagement, multiple revisions, and public hearings. Additionally, adopting or amending a shoreland ordinance also requires DNR involvement to review and approve the ordinance, which adds another step that must be incorporated into the project. As the number of stakeholders increases, so does the potential complexity, conflict, and time needed to successfully adopt an ordinance.

The DNR has launched a new shoreland ordinance review and approval process that is designed around local government public engagement processes and uses a project management approach to better communicate roles, responsibilities, and timing for a smoother adoption process.

Local governments have been required to protect shoreland resources through development standards established in state rules through shoreland ordinances since the early-1970s. As the state agency responsible for administering the shoreland program, the DNR’s resources, roles and expectations for reviewing and approving local ordinances have varied over time and geographic area.  This lack of consistency has created some problems for local governments and the DNR including:

  • Misalignment of DNR’s review and approval schedule with local government adoption processes, leading to insufficient time for DNR to review ordinances, which has caused delay and frustration for local governments.
  • Often incomplete/insufficient proposed ordinance submittals and documentation from local governments for DNR to determine compliance with rules
  • Occasional, incomplete follow through by DNR and/or local governments resulting in adoption of noncompliant shoreland ordinances.

The new process provides clarity on DNR and local government roles, expectations, and timing, with the goal of providing local governments with conditional approval on proposed ordinances and amendments in time for public hearings. We believe that this process will help reduce delays and potential conflicts in getting shoreland ordinances and amendments adopted. Key highlights include:

  • Early engagement with the DNR, establishing a goal of a 30 day review period for DNR conditional approval.
  • A step-by-step process aligned with local government ordinance amendment procedures and public processes, with clear roles and tasks in each step so there are no surprises.
  • One email address to use for submitting all ordinance documents to the DNR.
  • Completion of a checklist by local government that provides a “citation crosswalk” between provisions being changed in the local ordinance relative to the DNR model shoreland ordinance to encourage conforming language and streamline communications during DNR review.
  • Clarity on when deviation from the shoreland rules requires offsetting higher standards and expectations of how these deviations from key protection provisions are evaluated by the DNR.

Please visit our webpage to learn more about this new process. If you have specific questions or want to discuss a new ordinance or amendment, please contact your area hydrologist. If you are considering amendments to your shoreland ordinance or developing a new ordinance, please consider using the shoreland model ordinance; doing so will speed up review and approval.

Impacts of Murr v Wisconsin Supreme Court Case?

By Ceil Strauss, MNDNR, State Floodplain Manager

Gavel with "Court Corner" title

The Summer 2017 Water Talk issue included a brief article on the June 23, 2017 Supreme Court ruling on Murr et al. v. Wisconsin et al., noting the court ruled in favor of the State of Wisconsin on a regulatory takings case.

The Murr et al. v. Wisconsin et al. case involved landowners on the St. Croix River in St. Croix County, Wisconsin.  The petitioners own two adjacent lots – that are each less than one acre - adjacent to the Lower St. Croix River within an area protected under federal, state, and local law. Those regulations prevent use or sale of adjacent lots under common ownership unless they have a least one acre of land suitable for development. The landowners wanted to sell one of the lots in 2006 and use the proceeds for improvements to the remaining lot.

The landowners applied for a variance, and the St. Croix County Board of Adjustment denied the request. The landowners filed suit and the case worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, resulting in the June 23, 2017 ruling.

Does this Decision Affect Minnesota?

Minnesota has similar laws to those in Wisconsin requiring the combination of contiguous nonconforming (or substandard) lots under common ownership that the court found were not regulatory takings. As is noted in the Murr et al. v. Wisconsin et al. ruling, 1973 Wisconsin statutes authorized the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to promulgate rules limiting development  in  order  to  “guarantee  the  protection  of  the  wild, scenic  and  recreational  qualities  of  the  river  for  present and future generations.” Wis. Stat. §30.27(l) (1973). Minnesota has several programs authorized by the state legislature with similar goals to protect the state’s lakes and rivers for present and future generations, including: Shoreland Management Program, Floodplain Management Program, Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, Lower St. Croix Riverway Program and the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area Program.

How Has Wisconsin Reacted?

First page of Wisconsin Act 67

In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the State of Wisconsin’s legislature passed 2017 Wisconsin Act 67: 

  • limiting the authority of local governments to regulate development on substandard lots and to require the merging of lots;
  • requiring political subdivisions to issue a conditional use permit under certain circumstances;
  • giving standards for granting certain zoning variances;
  • amending local ordinance authorities related to repair, rebuilding, and maintenance of certain nonconforming structures; and
  • Limiting restrictions regarding the right to display the flag of the United States.

The Wisconsin Act amends enabling statutes for counties (Chapter 59), towns (Chapter 60), and cities (Chapter 62).

This follows 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 – the state’s 2015-2017 biennial budget - which included language amending the Wisconsin Shoreland Management regulations to prohibit higher local standards. Wisconsin staff prepared a summary of those changes in an October 1, 2015 memo on 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 and Shoreland Zoning.

Higher Standard Highlight: Why Freeboard Makes Sense (and Cents)

By Matt Bauman, MNDNR Floodplain and Shoreland Planner

If you aren’t already enforcing it, freeboard beyond the statewide minimum is an easy higher standard to enforce and can save a community a few headaches. Even if you’re in a community that may not typically embrace higher standards, a good economic argument can be made for safe and sustainable floodplain regulations, since your residents and businesses will have less impacts during flood events and can save money on flood insurance. We’ll dig into a few reasons for why and how you should be enforcing a higher freeboard.

Ease of Administration

If you don’t know what stage increase is, or don’t know how to find it, you may have unknowingly been permitting floodplain violations. Minnesota Rules (6120.5700, subp. 5) define flood protection elevations as:

“…a point not less than one foot above the water surface profile associated with the regional flood plus any increases in flood stages attributable to encroachments on the floodplain…” (emphasis added).

Floodway data table showing cross sections and stage increase in right column

In a nutshell, stage increase accommodates for permitted filling in flood fringe areas. Finding this stage increase involves digging into your Flood Insurance Study (FIS), which is not familiar to many administrators. When the average Minnesota community processes so few floodplain permits each year, it’s easy to understand how stage increase can be overlooked. Even if you understand how to find this information, are you confident that your successor will? If stage increase ever gets overlooked, and the structure gets flooded down the line, the community is setting themselves up for potential liability.

An easy safeguard to ensure you don’t get burned (or flooded!) by forgetting or miscalculating stage increases is to amend your definition for “Regulatory Flood Protection Elevation” by removing the one foot of freeboard plus any stage increase language, and administer a two foot freeboard instead. In Minnesota, stage increases are half a foot or less*, so adding a foot of freeboard, for a total of two feet, will always be higher than the minimum one to 1.5 feet of freeboard plus stage increase.

Protection from Large Events

Showing buildings will be flooded with higher water levels

Flood levels often exceed the 100-year flood elevation, as has been seen all around the state with increasing frequency. In fact, the Minnesota State Climatology office has assembled a list of 15 “Mega-Rain Events” - where the six inches of rain covered at least 1,000 square miles and the core exceeded eight inches - and seven of those occurred in the last 15 years!

Many floodplain maps were created long ago, using no supporting data or outdated modeling techniques. Others predate developments that have altered local hydrology and increased the level of runoff. In addition, older maps often are based on studies using outdated precipitation data such as the 1960 Technical Paper 40 (TP-40). New studies use NOAA’s 2013 Atlas 14 data, which reflects an additional 50 years of records and more extensive rain gage network, and shows 20 to 30 percent higher 100-year, 24 hour precipitation amounts in most of Minnesota.

To tackle these realities, many communities have elected to carry out updated modeling based on Atlas 14 precipitation data or future development. These updated models can provide technical backbone to support the enforcement of higher standards.

Economic Sense

When floods cause damages to homes and businesses, or impact basic community services like water and power, there are costs for: flood response, replacement of damaged buildings and contents, and temporary or long-term loss of business or employment.

In addition to reducing impacts during a flood, building higher with additional freeboard or updated modeling can lead to significant savings on flood insurance for homeowners and businesses. See the FEMA sourced graphic below showing how flood insurance costs drop dramatically as the lowest floor gets to two or more feet above the Base Flood Elevation (the one percent annual chance flood, or the “100-year flood”).

Graph shows flood insurance rates go down as the lowest floor goes up

For More Information on Higher Standards

Communities interested in exploring higher standards are encouraged to contact DNR floodplain staff.

* Minnesota Rules 6120.5700, subp. 4, A. allows a stage increase of up to 0.5 feet if that does not “increase flood damage potential,” which has been interpreted as any impact on existing structures. Note that stage increases are higher on the North Dakota border since the combination of Minnesota and North Dakota laws result in up to a 0.75 foot stage increase.

30 Years since Twin Cities "Superstorm"

By Ceil Strauss, MNDNR, State Floodplain Manager

While on a telephone call with a reporter recently, I mentioned the July 1987 Twin Cities "Superstorm," and asked the reporter if she'd been in the Twin Cities at that time. She paused, and replied "I wasn't born yet in 1987." That prompted me to realize it's been 30 years!  Many of our local officials and other professionals working with floodplain management are either too young to know about the "superstorm," or were not in the area at that time.

July 20-21 and July 23-24, 1987 Storms

First the July 20-21, 1987 storm hit southern Hennepin and northern Dakota and Scott Counties, with more than 140 square miles getting over 6 inches of rain. The greatest amount reported was over 9 inches at Canterbury Downs in Shakopee.

Then, only a day later, an even bigger storm hit. That storm was centered just to the north, overlapping with much of the same area. The July 23-24, 1987 storm hit over 93 square miles with more than 10 inches of rain and over 574 square miles with more than 6 inches of rain. The map below shows the location of a weighing rain gage that measured 11.32 inches. Some areas had over 16 inches of rain between the two storms.

Maps showing area of storms with up to 9" July 20-21 and 11" July 23-24, 1987 in western Twin Cities
Two major storms were back to back in the western Twin Cities July 20-21, 1987 and July 23-24, 1987. Source: MNDNR Climatology Office.

Impacts of "Superstorm"

The Twin Cities "Superstorm" impacted major transportation arteries, affecting many businesses and homeowners.

July 1987 flooded I-494 area in Bloomington & Edina

 It's hard for those who were not in the area at the time to understand the  magnitude of this flood. Portions of I-494 in the Bloomington and Edina area - not very far from the current Mall of America complex - were closed due to flooding for nearly a week.

July 1987 flooding in Bloomington between East Bush Lake Road and the railroad


At the time of the MNDNR State Climatology Office storm prepared their summary in July 1987, over 7,000 homes had reported water damage at a cost of over $25 million. Just over $1.2 million was paid in flood insurance claims.

Resulted in Action

The "Superstorm" triggered a discussion at both the state and local levels about the need to reduce the impacts - and accompanying costs - of future floods. 

  • 1987 - The Flood Damage Reduction Grant Assistance Program was created by the Minnesota Legislature in 1987 to provide technical and financial assistance to local government units for reducing the damaging effects of floods. The state provides grants to local units of government for up to 50 percent of the total cost of a project. The state of Minnesota has provided over provided over $500 Million in cost share grants since 1988. 
  • 1988 – Cities of Bloomington and Apple Valley adopted Stormwater Utilities. Note: Nearly 200 Minnesota municipalities now have stormwater utilities, but the first was adopted by the City of Roseville in 1984. The utilities typically provide funds for maintenance of stormwater systems, but many municipalities target at least a portion of the funds for projects to reduce flood damage potential.  

Moody's Report: Climate Risk Will Negatively Impact Ratings

Moody's recently published the report "Environmental Risks -- Evaluating the impact of climate change on US state and local issuers." 

An announcement on Moody's website notes that the effects of climate change, including climbing global temperatures, and rising sea levels, are forecast to have an increasing negative impact on credit ratings. The announcement states, “Moody's analysts weigh the impact of climate risks with states and municipalities' preparedness and planning for these changes when we are analyzing credit ratings. Analysts for municipal issuers with higher exposure to climate risks will also focus on current and future mitigation steps and how these steps will impact the issuer's overall profile when assigning ratings.”

The report is available to Moody’s subscribers.

When Do "Newly Mapped Rates" Apply? (Hint: Not for all Newly Mapped Areas)

By Ceil Strauss, MNDNR, State Floodplain Manager

Example of 45 day letter from lender saying insurance required

As new FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps become effective, many landowners are receiving letters from their lenders telling them they must purchase flood insurance. If they do not purchase flood insurance within 45 days, the lender will “force place” flood insurance that is typically much more expensive.

Local officials can first help citizens verify whether the mandatory flood insurance requirement really applies. (See the “Zoning Challenge - How Can I Be in the Floodplain?” article in this Water Talk issue.)

If a structure IS "in" the Special Flood Hazard Area (or the high flood risk area) on the new map, they MAY be eligible for the greatly discounted “Newly Mapped Rates.” However, it recently came to the attention of Minnesota’s Floodplain Program staff that there are scenarios we thought would be eligible for “Newly Mapped Rates,” but realized they are not when you look at the details for for "Newly Mapped Rates" eligibility.

There are three main possible scenarios for properties in mapped floodplain on new maps:

(1)    Eligible for “Newly Mapped Rates”

Newly Mapped FEMA information sheet image

If there was a previous Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), and a new FIRM becomes effective, properties previously in Zones B, C, X, D, AR, or A99 that have been newly mapped into a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) are eligible for the discounted “Newly Mapped Rates.” So properties newly mapped in Zone A or Zone AE can essentially pay the same rates as properties in low and medium risk areas for the first year IF they purchase the policy within the first year the new map is effective. The rates will go up annually, but at a percent relative to the much lower initial “Newly Mapped Rate.”

See example below of a structure that was "out" on the previous FIRM, but "in" on the new FIRM.

Sample site with old and new Zone A - shows structure out on old map and in on new map
Example of property that would be eligible for the "Newly Mapped Rate"

(2) Newly Mapped, but First Flood Insurance Rate Map

If the new map is the first FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map, the newly mapped property is not eligible for the “Newly Mapped Rate.” This includes cities that had never had a floodplain map, and communities that have only had the older Flood Hazard Boundary Maps. Properties in the newly identified high flood risk areas would be considered “pre-FIRM,” or pre – Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).

 Pre-FIRM structures can use either the subsidized “pre-FIRM” flood insurance rates, or the rates based on actual elevations, whichever is cheaper. In order to determine the elevation based rates, the agent must have a FEMA elevation certificate completed by a licensed surveyor or professional engineer. 

Shows city spot blank on old county FIRM, and how has Zone in both city and unincorporated county
Example of newly mapped areas within old boundary of a city with no previous Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM)

(3)    Old Maps Actually Showed Higher Risk

They were in the high flood risk area on the old maps, but didn’t know it. If the previous map was from the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s, they were often difficult to interpret. The old paper maps had few streets for reference, didn’t have an aerial background, and could be at a scale of one inch = 2,000 feet. With the newer digital maps, it’s much easier to see whether structures are in the high flood risk area.

The applicable rates depend on whether the building was built before or after the first Flood Insurance Rate Map. All properties can be rated based on actual elevations (using the FEMA Elevation Certificate), and pre-FIRM buildings can also be rated using the “pre-FIRM” rates.

NFIP Extended to ?????

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was originally set to expire September 30, 2017, but was extended to December 8, 2017.

Before expiring on December 8th, there was a short extension to December 22, 2017, and just before that deadline there was another extension to January 19, 2018 . 

See links to the latest updates and more information about NFIP reform and other topics of interest to floodplain managers at the Association of State Floodplain Managers (ASFPM) site.

Tiny Houses are all the Rage Right Now, But What do you do when They're in the Floodplain?

Adapted from Article by Steve Samuelson, State of Kansas Floodplain Manager

There are television shows about tiny houses and the idea is growing in popularity. Here in Minnesota, we most commonly see them in the form of vacation homes and guest quarters. There have been a number of questions raised about the applicable provisions in floodplain and shoreland areas. Ignoring any other building codes or zoning issues and just considering floodplain and shoreland regulations, here are some things to consider.

Tiny house in recreational vehicle park. Photo by Steve Samuelson.

A tiny house is still a house. No matter if the square footage is 300 feet or 3,000 feet, or whether it’s a converted shed or new construction. If it is habitable in any way, it IS a residential structure.

Every set of floodplain regulations has very clear requirements that the lowest floor be elevated to or above the regulatory flood protection elevation and must be anchored to prevent flotation, collapse or lateral movement. It has to be attached to a permanent foundation.

The argument has come back that the tiny house was delivered on back of a truck, so it is just temporary. Temporary living quarters are only allowed for structures that qualify as a recreational vehicle. Coincidentally, many tiny houses are built on trailers. To be treated as a recreational vehicle, the structure must be fully licensed and ready for highway use, and meet the definition found in most floodplain management ordinances:

  • Is the tiny house built on a single chassis, 400 square feet or less when measured at the largest horizontal projections,
  • Is it designed to be self-propelled or permanently able to be towed by a light duty truck, and
  • Is it designed primarily not for use as a permanent dwelling, but as a temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, travel or seasonal use?

Any tiny house that can meet that definition could be considered to be a “recreational vehicle” and allowed to meet the recreational vehicle requirements for floodplain management.

There has also been some confusion about tiny houses being called “accessory structures” because they were placed on a property that already had a larger primary structure. There’ve been cases of someone who purchased a shed from a lumberyard, had it delivered and then moved into it and turned it in to a house. To be very clear about this, when people will be living and sleeping in the structure, then it IS a residence and shouldn’t be considered a shed or accessory structure.

In Minnesota, even if the tiny structure meets the floodplain standards outlined above, it is still subject to shoreland standards, if located in a shoreland district. If so, it must comply with lot area and width requirements and water and bluff setback requirements. The shoreland rules allow secondary dwelling units, or “guest cottages” as long as they are on lots that meet the minimum lot size standards for duplexes. Guest cottages are a type of “tiny house” and are defined as a structure that is 700 square feet or less and no higher than 15 feet in height. Setbacks and lot size provisions for residential structures would vary based on the classification of the water body, and should be verified in the local ordinance. 

The tiny house must meet all of the same requirements of any other larger house. A house is a house and the size does not matter.

Editor's note: The original article was in the October 2017 issue of Kansas Floodplain Tips, and reprinted in the Association of State Floodplain Managers News & Views

Upcoming Trainings

The following trainings by DNR staff are scheduled:

    • January 11, 2018 (Thu), 1:00 – 3:00 pm, Crow Wing County Land Services Building (Brainerd); Floodplain/FEMA Map FAQs for Professionals (surveyors, agents, realtors, lenders, etc.)
    • January 17, 2018 (Wed), 8:45 am – 4 pm, Red Lake Falls City Hall; County Selected Special Topics
    • January 18, 2018 (Thu), 8:45 am – 4 pm, Carlton County Transportation Department (Carlton); County Selected Special Topics
    • February 21 (Wed), 2018, 8:45 a.m. - 4 p.m., Minnesota DNR Office, Fergus Falls; Basic Floodplain and Shoreland Management Training
    • February 27 (Tue), 2018, 8:45 am – 4 pm, WSB & Associates, Inc. (Golden Valley); Basic Floodplain and Shoreland Management Training
    • March 27, 2018 (Tue), 8:45 am- 4 pm, Rochester Fire Station #2; Special Floodplain Topics (selected by those attending)

    MN map showing location of 2018 trainings

    MnDNR will be updating the Floodplain Training and Education page as we get upcoming trainings confirmed.

    Contact Ceil Strauss at or 651-259-5713 for more details on the topics to be covered at a particular site, or to RSVP for a training.



    FEMA Map Status Listing

    Actual, scheduled and projected dates since Fall 2017 Water Talk:

    Preliminary Maps

    • Houston County (revised panel) - 12/29/2017 (anticipated)
    • Carver County (revised panels) - 1/31/2018 (anticipated)
    • Marshall County (revised levee area panels) - Q1 2018 (anticipated)
    • Norman County (revised levee LAMP panels) - Q1 2018 (anticipated)
    • Blue Earth County (revised levee area panels) - Q2 2018 (anticipated)
    • Nicollet County (revised) - Q2 2018 (anticipated)
    • Scott County (revised panels) - Q2 or Q3 2018 (anticipated)
    • Wright County (revised panels) - Q2 or Q3 2018 (anticipated)
    • Sometime in 2018: Polk County (revised); Fillmore County (revised panels)

    Letter of Final Determination (LFD)

    • Houston County - Q2 2018 (anticipated)
    • For any of the counties that get revised preliminaries sent out in the first half of 2018 (Q1 or Q2 2018 in Preliminary Maps listing above), the Letters of Final Determination should be sent before the end of 2018 (as long as no new major issues are discovered)

    Effective (6 months after LFD date)

    • Crow Wing County - August 15, 2017
    • Kittson County - September 29, 2017

    See latest timetable for past and future map updates and more about FEMA map updates in Minnesota.

      Zoning Challenge Answer: Am I in the Floodplain?

      Answer to Zoning Challenge at beginning of this newsletter

      What is your answer to the homeowner who doesn't understand why their lender says they are in the floodplain and must purchase flood insurance? It depends on which of the four scenarios in the graphic below pertains to their property.

      Same Image that is in the Zoning challenge question
      Site #1 close up - Floodplain on parcel, but house not in floodplain

      Site #1 - Floodplain on parcel, but structure is clearly NOT in the mapped floodplain: 

      This situation is most common in counties that just had updated FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) become effective. Most lenders routinely check whether new maps impact properties where they have existing loans, and most hire a “determination company” to check whether the building with the loan is “in” or “out” of the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).

      Determinations are typically automated, meaning a computer “looks” at whether any of the floodplain layer is on that parcel. However, they don’t look at whether the structure is “in” the floodplain unless a “manual determination” is done (i.e., by a person).

      What should you say?

      • Advise the landowner flood insurance is only MANDATORY if the structure is “in” the SFHA (the mapped floodplain).
      • Help or direct them to print an official map that shows the structure is not in the SFHA, and send that to the lender. See resources to access and print maps at MNDNR Floodplain Maps and Technical Resources site.
      • Show that map (or maps) to the lender. Most lenders will accept the better maps with aerial and the floodplain layer to show the structure is “out.” If the lender insists on a determination from FEMA, they will need to apply for a Letter of Map Amendment – Out-As-Shown. See more at MNDNR’s Map Appeals and Amendments site.
      • Note that it is the lender’s prerogative to require flood insurance as a business practice, but it is not a federal mandate. If the lender still requires flood insurance, they should be able to get the discounted “Preferred Risk Policy.”

      Site #2 close up - site is IN floodplain based on elevation and on map

      Site #2 – Structure IN mapped floodplain and BELOW the flood elevation

      They are subject to the mandatory flood insurance.

      Two main possibilities for why they were not told they were in the floodplain before:

      • Newly Mapped - If there are new maps in your area, it’s possible they have been newly mapped showing their high flood risk potential.  See the article above in this newsletter on “Newly Mapped” properties.
      • Poor Quality Prior or Current Map - If you do not have new maps, or you have new maps and the mapped high flood risk has not changed, the lender somehow missed they should have been required to get flood insurance in the past. Since older maps did not have an aerial photo background, were often at a poor scale, and were not digital, it was more difficult to determine whether a structure was in the FEMA mapped floodplain. On newer maps it is much easier to see the structures relative to the floodplain, and there are more digital resources even for the older maps.

      They may be able to elevate or do other floodproofing types of projects to reduce their risk and their flood insurance rates. (Communities can consult with MNDNR floodplain program staff on options for their situation.)

      Site #3 close up - many 2-foot contours above floodplain elevation

      Site #3 – Structure is in the FEMA mapped floodplain, but structure is above the flood elevation

      Many FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps are very old, or had updates that were done (or started) before the current requirements.  Newly funded mapping updates must have supporting data for all the flood elevations AND the boundaries must be drawn using the better LiDAR elevation data that are now available statewide in Minnesota.

       What should you say?

      • Advise the landowner that: The lender has no choice. Flood insurance is mandatory if the structure is “in” the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). The lender cannot waive that requirement just because the “know it’s really high.”
      • The requirement can only be waived if they get documentation from FEMA that based on more detailed elevation data, the structure’s not officially in the SFHA. Direct them to information on how to get a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) or a Letter of Map Revision based on Fill (LOMR-F). If possible, assist the landowner with obtaining a LOMA or LOMR-F. See more at MNDNR’s Map Appeals and Amendments site. Note that if the structure is significantly higher than the flood elevation, they may be eligible for a LOMA using LiDAR data.
      • Once the landowner has a LOMA or LOMR-F, they show that to the lender. Note that it is still the lender’s prerogative to require flood insurance as a business practice, but it is not a federal mandate. If the lender still requires flood insurance, they should be able to get the discounted “Preferred Risk Policy.”

      Site #4 close up - Not in FEMA floodplain, but below BFE

      Site #4 – NOT in FEMA mapped floodplain, but below the flood elevation:

      See the answers for site #1. Flood insurance is not mandatory since it is not in the FEMA mapped Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).

      However, note that they really are in the high flood risk area.

      • Any new structures, additions or other types of development (including any earth moving or other man made changes) must meet the local zoning and permitting requirements.
      • When the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map gets updated in the future, the new map will most likely be corrected to show that is a high risk area.

      For additional information, see:

      The MNDNR Map Appeals and Amendment site

      The Floodplain Maps and Technical Resources site (includes resources to access and print maps)

      The Zoning Challenge – Site in Mapped Floodplain is Actually Above the Base Flood Elevation article in the Summer 2017 Water Talk

      For more information

      Water Talk Newsletter is issued three to four times per year with the support of a FEMA Community Assistance Program - State Support Service Element (CAP-SSSE) grant.

      If you have ideas or requests for the next edition of Water Talk, contact editor Ceil Strauss via email or 651-259-5713.