Requests for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) approvals are on the rise with a higher than average number of requests coming in over the last six to eight months.  There doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for the increase in inquiries except for the fact that residential dwelling construction starts and renovations continue to climb.

The LOMA application process is a mechanism used by homeowners and developers to reduce the highly restrictive development regulations associated with 100 year floodplain from an otherwise buildable property.  The process starts with the identification of a regulated floodplain on the subject property.  This can be done several ways including referencing County GIS data, performing a topographic survey of a particular property or referencing the FEMA Maps directly.  The next step involves performing hydraulic modeling of the stream segment in question.  If the modeling shows a reduction in the floodplain area (i.e. flood flows exist closer to the main stream than shown on maps and published data), then the areas shown to now be high and dry can be identified on a plan and submitted to FEMA for review and approval.  With FEMA’s approval, those areas previously shown as floodplain and once regulated by the Municipal Flood Hazard District Regulations (translation: can’t be built upon) are now buildable.

Besides de-regulating land for development, another reason for preparing and submitting a LOMA application to FEMA is to eliminate the need for flood insurance.  About every 5 years FEMA issues an updated set of FEMA Floodplain Maps or as they refer to them, Map Panels.  Each Panel covers a specific part of the community showing the extent of the 100 year floodplain and specifies categories of floodplain – for example: Zone A Estimated, Zone AE Studied, Zone X – Not Regulated.  The “zone” indicates how the floodplain lines where derived.  For instance, areas designated Zone A are “Estimated” by USGS topo maps, historical evidence of flooding and interviews with local residents.  Areas designated Zone AE are the result of actual hydraulic modeling.  What is important to note here is that if your property is located within an “A” zone, you’ve got a pretty good shot at reducing the impact on your property through the modeling process.

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t run from a development opportunity or back-burner your plans for a new pool just because the floodplain map says your property is in a floodplain.  Take the time to research what can be done to eliminate the restriction.  More often than not, the floodplain issue becomes a non-issue.