Floodplain management aims to reduce flood risk, protect public health and safety, and help communities become more resilient. New Hanover County utilizes corrective and preventive measures to reduce flood damage, including but not limited to emergency preparedness plans, flood control works, and floodplain management regulations.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was established by the Federal Government in the 1960s as part of an effort to correct shortcomings of traditional flood control and flood relief programs, and reduce the costs of flooding to taxpayers. In 1979, the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA) and the NFIP were transferred to the newly created Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The NFIP is self-funded, meaning that flood insurance premiums are used to bear the cost of paying out claims under the flood policies. This program emphasizes the importance of not repeating the mistakes of the past. New construction and substantial improvements to old construction must meet standards designed to minimize loss of property during flood events, primarily through elevating the lowest floor of the structure, and through anchorage and foundations designed to allow flood waters to pass safely under the building. The flood-prone area where these standards apply is termed the “100 Year Floodplain,” and is shown on maps prepared by FEMA. Development standards set by the NFIP reach the local level through local ordinances.
Only communities that adopt local floodplain regulations are allowed to participate in the NFIP, which is a crucial factor in low-lying areas such as New Hanover County, since financing to build or purchase homes in the floodplain is nearly impossible to obtain without flood insurance. The New Hanover County Floodplain Regulations were adopted for the unincorporated areas of the county in 1978, and have been amended several times over the years. The City of Wilmington and Towns of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach also participate in the NFIP, but under their own ordinances.
The county’s Building Safety Department administers the portions of the County Floodplain Regulations that relate to buildings. The County Engineering Department is charged with responsibilities related to grading and filling of areas within the floodplain, particularly in the floodways along certain streams. While the Building Safety Department provides various types of inspection services within the county’s municipalities (Wilmington and the beach communities), those municipalities are responsible for the administration and enforcement of their local floodplain regulations. The city or town official is responsible for making floodplain determinations at the time of permit issuance and through the course of the project.
In addition to other floodplain administration duties, New Hanover County participates in FEMA’s voluntary Community Rating System program. Participation in this program enables all county residents that receive flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program to receive a discounted insurance premium. The following links provide additional information about floodplain management.