Floodplains are regulatory boundaries established to preserve the flood-carrying capacity of our creeks, channels and rivers.
Floodplains are established by engineering analysis and reviewed, approved and mapped by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These maps are available for review at the city's Planning and Development Services Department, or on the FEMA website.
Because the protection of floodplains are crucial in managing the dangers associated with flooding, regulations are in place that strictly limit allowable activities in flood prone areas. These are included in the Flood Hazard Protection Ordinance.
FEMA has published new maps which will become effective April 2, 2014 concluding a multi-year "Physical Map Revision" effort. The five new maps are panel numbers 205F, 215F, 220F, 305F, and 310F -- as well as a new Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and a new Map Index for the all Brazos County. The map changes incorporate changes to Carters Creek and Bee Creek due to updated engineering studies as well as the Bee Creek Channelization Project from recent years. The FEMA map update effort previously referred to as "Map Modernization" produced the maps that became effective May 16, 2012 which are identified by FIRM numbers ending with a letter E. The subsequent FEMA map update is referred to as a "Physical Map Revision" which produced the updated maps that will became effective April 2, 2014 are identified by FIRM numbers ending with a letter F. Additional information and the effective FIRM maps are available at http://www.bcsunited.net/fema/.
Questions about floodplains, the City's Flood Protection Ordinance, or ongoing construction may be referred to the Certified Floodplain Managers below:
Carol Cotter, P.E./CFM, Interim City Engineer
Erika Bridges, E.I.T/CFM, Graduate Engineer
Debbie Stickles, Engineering Program Specialist
- Floods are the number one natural disaster in the United States.
- Just an inch of water can cause costly damage to property.
- As little as six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet or move your car.
- Everyone is at risk.
- Most homeowner's insurance doesn't cover flood damage.
- More than 50 percent of properties in high-risk areas remain unprotected by flood insurance; all properties in high-risk areas need to be protected with flood insurance.
- Between 20-25 percent of all flood insurance claims are filed in low-to-moderate risk areas.
- New construction can increase flood risk, especially if it changes natural runoff paths.
- More than five million Americans are protected with flood insurance, but millions more are unaware of their personal risk for property damage or options for protection.
- For building in high flood risk areas, there is a 26 percent chance of experiencing a flood during the life of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a nine percent chance of experiencing a fire.
- Flood losses in the United States averaged $2.4 billion per year for the last decade.
- The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has paid nearly $16 billion in flood insurance claims to policyholders during the 2005 hurricane seasons (as of Aug. 31, 2006).
- Federal disaster assistance is usually a loan that must be paid back with interest and is only available when a disaster has been federally-declared.
- In the last 52 years, nearly 1,000 flood events have been designated as federally-declared disasters.
- Nearly 75 percent of all federally-declared disasters over the past five years involved flooding.
topCollege Station Floodplains
There are several creeks within the City of College Station that create an increased risk for flooding in major rain events. The creeks in the city include: Burton Creek, Carters Creek, Wolf Pen Creek, Bee Creek, White Creek, Alum Creek, Lick Creek, Spring Creek and Fox Fire Creek. Each of these have areas known as "floodplains," where water collects and flows during the course of natural events.
A floodplain is defined as any land area susceptible to being inundated by water from any source. These areas are classified as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), and are located in a 100-year flood zone. The term "100-year flood" can be misleading. It does not mean that the flood will occur every 100 years; rather it is the flood elevation that has a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded each year. The City College Station has Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) that identify all floodplain areas within the city limits.
The City of College Station strives to protect the natural and beneficial functions of floodplain areas. In 1987, the City Council adopted the City's First Flood Hazard Protection Ordinance which implemented strict development standards to protect and preserve the natural conditions and flood control functions of the floodplains within College Station.
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Unlike most standard homeowner's policies, flood insurance covers losses to your property caused by flooding. Property owners, renters and businesses can purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as a result of the City of College Station’s participation in the program. By participating in the NFIP, communities are required to adopt sound floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. In exchange, the NFIP provides federally-backed flood insurance at affordable rates.
Communities that participate in the NFIP are rated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through the Community Rating System (CRS). FEMA encourages communities to implement floodplain management standards which exceed the minimum NFIP standards. In return, FEMA rewards communities with higher standards by offering a discount on flood insurance policies.
The City of College Station has been classified as a Class-7 Community in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) rating system, which will result in lower flood insurance premiums for the city’s residents. The National Flood Insurance Program’s Community Rating System is a voluntary program with goals of reducing flood losses, producing accurate insurance ratings, and promoting awareness of flood insurance.
The City of College Station was cited for its efforts to go beyond minimum floodplain management requirements. As a result, flood insurance rates will be reduced 15 percent for structures in Special Flood Hazard Areas and five percent in 500-year Areas. (Note that Preferred Risk Policies are already at reduced rates and do not have additional premium reductions.) Homeowners can review their insurance policy or contact their insurance agent to determine if they live in an affected area.
Innovative activities implemented by the city include the use of digital flood maps, conducting outreach projects, requiring disclosure of flood hazards, preserving open space, administering a stormwater management program, and using freeboard for new construction. Freeboard elevates a building’s lowest floor above predicted flood levels.
The Texas Water Development Board presented a special recognition plaque to city officials at July 8 City Council meeting for achieving a Class 7 in the Community Rating System.
For more information regarding local floodplain management, please contact Debbie Stickles at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 979.764.3570.
Why Purchase Flood Insurance?
Flood insurance is required by law for property owners living in a high-risk area, or Special Flood Hazard Area, with a federally-backed mortgage. For example, if you have a FHA or VA loan, or if your mortgage company is federally insured, you must obtain flood insurance if you live in a high risk area. Regardless of the type of mortgage, College Station recommends that all residents in high-risk areas be protected. For buildings in high-flood risk areas, there is a 26% chance of experiencing a flood during the life of a 30-year mortgage, compared to a 9% chance of experiencing a fire.
Remember that everyone has some risk of flooding. Flooding events can also occur in low-to- moderate risk areas and flood insurance in these areas is also strongly recommended. Most homeowner's policies do not cover flood losses.
How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?
The average premium for a yearly flood insurance policy is approximately $500. People in low-to-moderate risk areas may be eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy with flood insurance premiums as low as $112 a year. Contact your insurance agent for more details.
How Do I Purchase Insurance?
Flood insurance is sold through more than 80 private insurance companies and agents, and is available to homeowners, business owners, and renters. Contact your insurance agent to help you decide what kind of flood protection is best for you. Information on how to purchase a flood insurance policy is also available at FloodSmart.gov.
For more information about flood insurance click here.
topProperty Protection Measures
Home and business owners can protect themselves from future floods or reduce the effect of future floods by various means including:
Elevating the structure
Flood proofing the structure
Surrounding the structure with a small wall or levee
Facilitating future evacuations
Buying flood insurance
For more information on protecting your property from flooding damage, click here to visit FEMA's website.
Localized Drainage Concerns (Residential Properties)
Under Texas Water Law, "No person may divert or impound the natural flow of surface waters in this state, or permit a diversion or impounding by him to continue in a manner that damages the property of another by the overflow of the water diverted or impounded." Essentially, this means that the natural path of storm water runoff is not to be blocked.
- If you have experienced minor flooding in your home or ponding water in your yard, you may simply have a localized drainage problem that can be corrected with minor grading.
- Property owners are responsible for runoff from private property or between private properties.
- Become familiar with your lot's intended drainage pattern. In most cases, the runoff is intended to flow to the street around each side of the home. In some cases, portions of your lot may naturally drain onto a neighbor's lot, or perhaps you have neighbors whose yard drains onto yours.
- Before you decide to make landscaping improvements to your yard, including the construction of a pool, make sure that you are not blocking the path of storm water runoff and inadvertently causing damage to your property, or the surrounding properties.
- Consider purchasing Flood Insurance, even if your property is not within a FEMA designated Special Flood Hazard Area. Homeowner's insurance does not cover damages caused by flooding. The City recommends that residents of College Station who live near or in a floodplain purchase flood insurance, even it if is not mandated by your home mortgage company. Every year, 25% of flood damages occur on properties outside of the floodplain.
Nobody can stop a flood, but there are actions you can take before, during, and after a flood to protect your family and keep your property losses to a minimum.
BEFORE THE FLOOD... listen to your radio, TV, or National Weather Service radio for the latest information on weather conditions that can cause flooding. Click here to learn about NOAA Weather Radios.
"Flash Flood Watch" means that conditions exist that may lead to flash flooding. "Flash Flood Warning" means that flash flooding has been reported. "Urban and Small Stream Advisory" means that flooding of small streams, streets, and low-lying areas is occurring.
STAY ALERT... and avoid unnecessary travel during severe weather. Poor visibility can make trips dangerous. Warn children not play near swollen creeks, storm drains, or culverts. Do not go near creeks and low-water crossings. Beware of rising, swift-moving water. Creeks can rise to dangerous levels in as little as one hour. Manmade features such as storm drains, fences, and culverts create additional "strainers" that can snag and drown even the strongest swimmer. If you see major obstructions such as downed trees or telephone poles in a creek, or if you see a blocked culvert or bridge opening, call dispatch at 979-764-3638.
If time permits, and your house is in the path of the flood:
- Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if evacuation appears necessary.
- Move valuables, such as papers, furs, jewelry, and clothing to upper floors or higher elevations.
- Fill bathtubs, sinks, and plastic soda bottles with clean water. Sanitize the sinks and tubs first by using bleach and rinsing.
- Bring outdoor possessions, such as lawn furniture, grills, and trash cans inside, or tie them down securely.
DURING THE FLOOD... stay away and do not drive or walk into water that is flowing across low water crossings, bridges, or roadways. If you come upon a flooded road, turn around and go another way. Heed all warnings and street barricades, because if you go around one, you may be subject to a fine.
These areas are especially dangerous because:
- As little as six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet or move your car.
- More people drown in their cars than anywhere else.
- The road may be washed out below the water surface.
- Your car may stall or get stuck in the water, and then get pushed off the road. Once off the road, cars often start to roll, making escape impossible.
Move to a safer area... and do not go near downed power lines and electrical wires. Electrocution is another major source of deaths in floods.
Evacuate your house if instructed to do so. Follow emergency instructions. It is much safer and easier to evacuate before flood waters become too deep.
If the waters start to rise inside your house before you have evacuated, retreat to the second floor, attic or roof. Take dry clothing, a flashlight, and a portable radio.
AFTER THE FLOOD... call the insurance company that handles your flood insurance policy right away to initiate a claim. Most insurance companies will require repair estimates from a contractor. You should also document any damage by taking color photographs or video of damages resulting from the flood. Here is a link to an article on initial home clean-up suggestions - http://www.improvenet.com/a/cleaning-up-your-home-after-a-flood.
Before entering a flooded building, remember the following:
- Check for structural damage. Don't go in if there is any chance of the building collapsing.
- Do not use matches, cigarette lighters, or any other open flames, since gas may be trapped inside. Instead, use a flashlight to light your way.
- Keep power off until an electrician has inspected your system for safety.
- Look out for animals and snakes. Animals lose their homes in floods too. They may seek shelter in yours.
- Until local authorities proclaim your water supply to be safe, boil water for five minutes before using for drinking and food preparation. minutes before using.
- Flood waters pick up sewage and chemicals from roads, farms, and factories. If your home has been flooded, protect your family's health by cleaning up your house right away. Throw out foods and medicines that may have come into contact with flood water.
- Be careful walking around. After a flood, steps and floors are often slippery with mud and covered with debris, including nails and broken glass.
The following information is extracted from the Flood Hazard Protection Ordinance
Structures within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) in a community participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are subject to floodplain management regulations that impact building standards and are designed to minimize flood risk. In addition to federal standards, the City of College Station has ordinances in place which further govern development within the SFHA. These standards apply to new structures and to substantial improvements of existing structures. The City defines a substantial improvement as any reconstruction, rehabilitation, or addition to an existing structure, the cost of which exceeds fifty percent (50%) of the structure's appraised or market value (whichever the builder chooses to use).
Key components of Floodplain Development:
- A Development Permit is required for all work in the floodplain.
- A building under construction (concrete form elevation) and finished construction Elevation Certificate is required for structures within the SFHA. This certification must be made by a Texas Registered Professional Surveyor, Engineer or Architect. The Elevation Certificate form and instructions can be downloaded by clicking the link above to FEMA's website, or a copy can be picked up at the Planning and Development Services Department.
- The Finished Floor elevation of structures within the SFHA must be a minimum of 12 inches (12") above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). A BFE can typically be provided by the City Engineer. In some cases, a BFE cannot be determined due to lack of hydraulic data.
Any activity performed in the floodplain must have a Development Permit. This includes grading, filling, residential construction and commercial construction.
To obtain a permit you must complete a Development Permit application. Applications can be picked up at the Planning and Development Department or online. Complete and return the form to the Planning and Development Services Department along with three (3) sets of plans for the project. The plans must clearly show existing and proposed contours at the site with all elevations submitted in NAVD 1988 datum.
If your property lies within the SFHA, a Development Permit is required for any work, including:
- Grading, Filing or Paving
- Construction of new structures, including pools, gazebos, retaining walls, fences, additions to the home, etc.
You may be required to bring your home into compliance with current floodplain development standards if:
- Your home has been significantly damaged due to flooding, resulting in the need for substantial improvements, OR
- You are proposing substantial improvements to your home such as an addition or renovation.
The City defines a substantial improvement as any reconstruction, rehabilitation, or addition to an existing structure, the cost of which exceeds fifty percent (50%) of the structure's appraised or market value (whichever the builder chooses to use).
City staff is available to make site visits, if requested, to review flooding and drainage issues. Contact the Public Works Office at (979)764-3690 for site visits. For further information and prior to undertaking any activity within the floodplain contact City Engineer's Office at (979)764.3570.
The City of College Station will issue building permits for property located in the FEMA designated floodplain if all of the City's and FEMA's regulation are met. There are two basic ways to get a building permit for property located in the floodplain. One method is to place fill dirt on the property to raise the Finish Floor (FF) of the structure higher than the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). The property can also be removed from the floodplain through the CLOMR/LOMR process.
If any portion of the proposed development or its offsite improvements (including pipes or ditches) fall within the limits of the FEMA floodplain, backwater calculations may be required. In addition:
- All new construction, any substantial improvement to a structure, and appurtenances shall be securely anchored to prevent flotation, collapse or lateral movement and shall be constructed in such a manner as to minimize flood damage and provide adequate drainage;
- New and replacement sanitary sewage systems, including but not limited to septic tanks and drain fields, package treatment plants, etc., shall be designed to minimize or eliminate infiltration of flood waters into the system and discharges from the system into flood waters;
- New and replacement water supply systems including wells, treatment plants, distribution facilities, etc., shall be designed to prevent infiltration of flood waters into the system;
- Solid or liquid waste disposal sites or systems shall be designed and located to avoid contamination from them during flooding and to avoid impairment of their operation during times of flooding;
- All new construction or any substantial improvement of any residential structure shall have the lowest floor, including all utilities, ductwork and any basement, at an elevation at least one foot above the Base Flood Elevation.
- All new construction or any substantial improvement of any commercial, industrial, or other non-residential structure shall either have the lowest floor, including all utilities, ductwork and basements, elevated at least one foot above the Base Flood Elevation, or the structure with its attendant utility, ductwork, basement and sanitary facilities shall be flood-proofed.
- For all new construction and substantial improvements, fully-enclosed areas below the lowest floor that are used solely for parking of vehicles, building access or storage in an area other than a basement and that are subject to flooding shall be designed to automatically equalize hydrostatic flood forces on exterior walls by allowing for the entry and exit of floodwaters;
- In areas of special flood hazard where Base Flood Elevations have not been established, Base Flood Elevation data shall be generated for subdivision proposals and other proposed development, including manufactured home parks, which are greater than 50 lots or 5 acres, whichever is less.
- In A1-30, AH, and AE Zones [or areas of special hazard], all recreational vehicles to be placed on a site must (i) be elevated and anchored; and (ii) be on the site for less than 180 consecutive days; and (iii) be fully licensed and highway ready.
- Any new construction, substantial improvement to a structure or fill that encroaches into the Special Flood Hazard Area shall be prohibited unless it can be demonstrated that same will have no adverse impacts. All fill must be compacted per FEMA Technical Bulletin 10-01. A Certification of Compaction of fill, certified by a Professional Engineer must be submitted to the City Engineer’s staff. It is important to note that the placement of "fill" does not automatically remove the property from the floodplain. Therefore, flood insurance may still be required by the "lender". Only the CLOMR/LOMR process will revise the floodplain limits and remove the property from the floodplain.
- Approved mitigation such as excavation, must be properly approved and occur prior to any approved encroachment or fill is placed in the construction sequencing.
- If a modification of any watercourse is involved where a total of 300 feet reach or more is channelized or closed within a culvert, an effective Conditional Letter of Map Amendment shall be on file with the Administrator prior to any development or issuance of a Development Permit. All submittals to FEMA shall be made at no cost to the City.
Any revision or amendment to the Flood Insurance Study which is requested by a land owner in the City shall be submitted to the designated Administrator of the Stormwater Management Program in accordance with the requirements set forth in the Bryan/College Station Unified Design Guidelines, Standard Details, and Technical Specifications. All requests for map amendment or map revision must be approved by the Administrator in writing prior to their submission to FEMA.
Two options are available to builders to obtain a building permit for a structure currently located within a SFHA.
The first option is that the builder can wait until the LOMR is approved prior to getting a building permit for those lots located in the existing floodplain. (Building permits can be obtained on lots not in the designated floodplain.) The approval of the LOMR by FEMA "officially" removes the property from the 100-year floodplain and therefore does not place additional requirements on the builder in order for the permit to be issued. The City does not have any control over the FEMA review process and therefore cannot predict the length of the FEMA review process.
The second option for the builder is to submit a revised grading plan to the City indicating how the lots can be raised with "fill" so that the Finished Floor elevation is at least 12 inches higher than the existing Base Flood Elevation (the flood elevation prior to approval of the LOMR.) The builder will be allowed to get a building permit for those lots that are raised and comply with FEMA's criteria for building within a designated floodplain. If the lots are already 12 inches higher than the Base Flood Elevation, then no fill dirt will be required. The builders may be required to pay flood insurance until the LOMR is approved by FEMA.
If the structure is currently located in a FEMA designated SFHA the applicant must submit two Elevation Certificates.
- With the form board survey before the slab is poured, AND
- A post construction Finished Floor elevation certification prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy
These certifications must be made by a Texas Registered Professional Surveyor, Engineer or Architect. This must confirm that the Finished Floor of the actual construction is at least 12 inches above the BFE. Copies of previously submitted elevation certificates are available in the City Engineer's Office.
topFloodplain Construction FAQ's
Q: What is a 100-year floodplain?
A: The term "100-year flood" is misleading. It is not the flood that will occur once every 100 year. There are many levels of floods: 500-year, 100-year, 20-year, and 10-year, for example. These numbers indicate the likelihood that a particular area will flood in a year's time. For example, a home in a 100-year floodplain has a one in 100 (or 1 percent) chance each year of being flooded. That percentage holds true every year, regardless of how many floods have occurred in previous years, or their severity.
Q: Who sets the boundaries of floodplain?
A: The Federal Emergency Management Agency, working with local governments, sets the 100-year floodplain boundaries through flood insurance rate studies. Separate studies are done for communities because floodplain levels vary depending on an area's characteristics.
Q: What are my odds of flooding within a 100-year floodplain?
A: If your home is in the 100-year floodplain, it has a 26% chance of getting flooded over a 30-year mortgage period, which is about five times higher than the risk for a severe fire! If your home is in a lower-lying area of the 100-year floodplain, your risk of flooding will increase. People outside of the 100-year floodplain are free of regulatory requirements, but not of risk. Federally-backed flood insurance is available to people outside of the 100-year flood zone as well.
Q: Can I build on property in a floodplain?
A: It depends. Floodplain development restrictions apply to grading, new construction and some renovations. Contact the City Engineer’s Office at 979.764.3570 for more information on these requirements.
Q: Do I need a special permit to grade, build or renovate in a floodplain?
A: Yes. A Floodplain Development Permit is needed to make sure the changes comply with floodplain regulations.
Q: Does standard homeowner's insurance cover losses and damages due to flooding?
Q: Am I required to purchase flood insurance?
A: Yes, if your property is located in a high risk area or Special Flood Hazard Area AND you have a federally backed mortgage such as FHA or VA loan. Remember, everyone has some risk of flooding. Although flood insurance is not required for low and moderate risk properties, the City of College Station recommends everyone know their risk and options for purchasing flood insurance.
Q: How much does flood insurance cost?
A: The average premium for a yearly flood insurance policy is approximately $500. People in low-to-moderate-risk areas may be eligible for the Preferred Risk Policy with flood insurance premiums as low as $112 a year. Contact your insurance agent for more details.
Q: How can I find out if my property is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area?
A: View our Interactive Map or contact the City Engineers Office at 979-764-3570.
topDrainage System Maintenance
The term storm water refers to rainwater. Storm water washes down storm drains on the curbs of roads and leads directly into lakes, rivers, and streams. Unlike wastewater, it is untreated and can carry pollutants, sediments, and trash directly into our natural water resources.
As storm water runoff travels over the land, it picks up all kinds of chemicals, waste, and trash that are not naturally found in our waterways. Storm water runoff enters the storm drain system through inlets, and discharges untreated into creeks, lakes, and rivers. Some chemicals and other substances in storm water can be toxic, even at small levels, endangering plant and animals that depend on the water to survive. Pollution of our waterways can also mean we cannot boat, swim, or fish because it is unpleasant or even unsafe.
Storm water runoff from properties throughout College Station flows to one of several branches of the Navasota and Brazos Rivers, then on to the Gulf of Mexico. As you may be aware, the Navasota and Brazos Rivers are an important natural resource and thriving ecosystem.
Storm water pollution can be controlled if everyone plays a part in preventing these substances from entering the storm drain inlets in the streets where they live and work. You can help prevent storm water pollution by eliminating illicit discharges, exercising responsible use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers in lawn and landscape maintenance, and proper disposal of used oil and toxic materials. Please aid us in our effort to keep College Station beautiful and protect our natural resources.
What Can We Do?
Please do your part to keep inlets and drainage ways clear of brush and debris. Here are steps you can take to protect the quality and control the quantity of water in College Station creeks:
- Maintain your vehicle so hoses and reservoirs do not leak or break causing fluids to spill onto streets. Don't pour used motor oil, antifreeze, old pesticides or any other pollutants into the storm drainage system.
- Use a mulching mower or bag your grass and leaves instead of blowing the yard waste into the street. Yard waste can clog storm drains.
- Pick up litter around your neighborhood or business so that trash doesn't collect on drainage inlets or clogs storm sewer pipes.
- If you spot a blocked drain or notice illegal dumping, call the Public Works Department at 979-764-3638, and an inspector will investigate. Putting foreign substances into the storm sewer is a violation of City ordinance.
Our Drainage System
The City of College Station has a city-wide system of drainage improvements, including over 100 miles of pipes and channels which convey storm water to local creeks. When the drainage system is overwhelmed, "localized flooding" can be the result. The drainage system consists of:
- Roadside ditches
- Curb inlets
- Storm drain pipes (ranging in diameter from 6" to 8')
The City has a drainage maintenance program in which crews annually clean out debris that has collected within channels.
**New** Letter of Map Revisions (LOMR)