Floodplain Management Program


map adoption SET DATE


The new floodmaps (FIRMs) for Washington County will become effective on August 15, 2017





To maintain eligibility in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the County must adopt a new floodplain ordinance prior to the adoption date of the new floodmaps, which is August 15, 2017.

View the 2017 Proposed Floodplain Ordinance




Washington County has a floodplain management program that was implemented following the publication of the first Flood Insurance Rate Maps for our County by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on May 1, 1978.  The County’s floodplain management program is administered in accordance with the Floodplain Management Ordinance

The County is responsible for managing development in the areas designated by FEMA as 100-year floodplains.    FEMA has produced maps, called Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), for Washington County that show the location of the 100-year floodplain.  FEMA uses the term “Special Flood Hazard Area”, or “SFHA” as the area that is inundated by the 100-year flood.  The 100-year floodplain is the area of land that has a 1% chance of being flooded in any given year.

Floodplain Diagram

By employing wise floodplain management through the implementation of our Floodplain Ordinance, Washington County strives to prevent loss of life and property; preserve the biological and environmental functions of our
wetlands and waterways; and reduce the economic losses associated with flooding events.

National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

The U.S. Congress established the NFIP in 1968 in response to mounting
Claggetts Mill Race in Flood flood losses and escalating costs of disaster relief to the taxpayers.  The intent was to reduce future flood damage through community floodplain management ordinances, and provide protection for property owners against potential losses through an insurance mechanism that requires a premium to be paid for the protection.

Washington County is a “community” that participates in the NFIP.  Participation is voluntary.  It is based on an agreement between the County and the Federal Government.  The agreement required the County to adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance.  In exchange, the Federal Government will make flood insurance available for County residents.

Contact the NFIP website (http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart) for more information about flooding and flood insurance.

Useful FEMA Brochures Regarding Flood Insurance:

Flood Insurance: How It Works
Top Ten Facts for Consumers
Questions and Answers About Flood Insurance for Real Estate Professionals


*****Important News Regarding the NFIP*****



Upcoming changes to the NFIP - Recent Flood Insurance Legislation will affect Subsidized Rates for Pre-FIRM Buildings.

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12), which was signed into law on July 6, 2012, requires FEMA to take steps to eliminate a variety of existing flood insurance subsidies and calls for a number of changes in how the program operates.  Here is some information about these changes.

Change starts January 1, 2013

Subsidized premium rates for pre-Flood Insurance Rate Map (pre-FIRM) non-primary residences in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) will begin to increase by 25 percent a year until they reflect full-risk rates.  A pre-FIRM building is one that was built before the community's first flood map became effective and has not been substantially damaged or improved. 

Read WYO Bulletin W-12403.

There will be more changes in the future

Some older residences in high-risk zones have bee receiving subsidized insurance rates based on their pre-FIRM status.  Subsidies will be phased out for severe repetitive loss properties consisting of 1-4 residences, business properties and properties that have incurred flood-related damages where claims payments exceed the fair market value.

See the following links for the timeline and FEMA information brochure:
Biggert Waters Flood Insurance Reform Timeline
Build Back Safer and Stronger Brochure

FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs)

FEMA publishes maps called FIRMs that show the 100-yr floodplain (or SFHA) for Washington County.  These maps are on file at the Plan Review and Permitting Department.  In addition, the FIRMs can be viewed and ordered online at the FEMA Map Service Center (www.msc.fema.gov)  The Map Service Center also has a free service that allows the user to create and print a “FIRMETTE”, which is a smaller portion of a FIRM.  You can also contact the FEMA Map Information Exchange (www.floodmaps.fema.gov/fhm/fmx_main.html) to talk to a FEMA representative regarding any flood map questions.

Floodplain Permit

A County Floodplain Permit is required for all development in the FEMA 100-year floodplain.  The term “development” is defined very broadly as “any man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate.”  Any project where a person applies for a County permit (such as a building, grading, mechanical, or intent to build) is reviewed to determine if a Floodplain Permit is also required. 

A County Floodplain Permit is not required for agricultural practices with the exception of filling, excavating or constructing a structure.

There are two Fees for a Floodplain Permit: $25.00 for the permit application and $150.00 for the technical review of the project.

Contact the Plan Review and Permitting Department at 240.313.2460 to find out the application requirements for a Floodplain Permit.

NOTE:  In addition to the County Floodplain Permit, an approval from the Maryland Department of Environment, Water Resources Administration may be required.  Visit the MDE website Non-Tidal Wetland and Waterway Permits, Approvals and Certifications for more information.

Flood Vents

Interested in learning more about FEMA's flood opening requirements for enclosed areas?  "Taking the Mystery Out of Flood Openings" is an excellent article published in The American Surveyor.  Also, refer to the following FEMA technical bulletins:  "Openings in Foundation Walls and Walls of Enclosures"and "Crawlspace Construction".  Please click on the icons below for more information.


Photo FEMA Map Photo

Mobile Homes

New mobile homes (“manufactured homes”) are not permitted to be placed in the FEMA floodplain.  Replacement mobile homes are permitted if they comply with certain requirements (e.g., elevated, anchored, outside the floodway, etc.).

New Flood Maps Coming Soon (DFIRMs)

The State of Maryland in conjunction with FEMA has been systematically updating Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for communities over the past several years.  The current paper flood maps are being converted to a digital format that is GIS compatible called Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRMs).  The improvements in spatial accuracy provided by the new base map, and the availability of electronic floodplain information should greatly enhance the ability to use the maps for planning, permitting, and insurance applications.

The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) has created a website called DFIRM Outreach Program (www.mdfloodmaps.com) that provides a wide range of useful information regarding the status of the maps statewide and an aid to homeowners called Flood Risk Application that helps them determine their flood risk based on the new maps.

FEMA also has a website called RAMPP (www.rampp-team.com/md.htm) (Risk Assessment, Mapping, and Planning Partners) where the new flood maps can be viewed for Washington County.  Note: FEMA uses the term “map modernization” to refer to the DFIRM conversion project.

DFIRM News (updated March 11, 2013)

Concerns were raised with the engineering methods used to create the preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) issued in September 2010, so that created some initial delays.  While those issues were being addressed, additional concerns were raised with the topographic information used to delineate the floodplain boundary.  (This information was provided by the County as part of a cost-share effort to support the project).

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has finished collecting new elevation data for the County using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology.  The funding for completion of the revised DFIRMs has still not been finalized.  Once the funding is in place, it will take about 6 months to complete the revised DFIRMs.  They will then be delivered to the County for review and comment.  Because of delays due to new mapping and funding issues, it is estimated the revised DFIRMS will not be adopted by Washington County until early 2016.

Community Rating System (CRS)

The NFIP created the Community Rating System which is a program that provides discounts on flood insurance premiums for property owners in participating communities.  To participate, a community has to agree to implement a floodplain management program that exceeds minimum NFIP standards.  Participating communities are rated from Class 1 to Class 10, with Class 1 being the best.  Property owners located in the floodplain of a community with a Class 1 rating receive a discount of 45% on flood insurance premiums.

Washington County does not currently participate in the CRS, however, we are in the process of weighing the costs and benefits of the program.

If you have questions, please contact:

Mark Stransky, P.E., CFM
Floodplain Manager

Washington County Administrative Annex
80 West Baltimore Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740
Telephone: (240) 313-2460
Fax: (240) 313-2461