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Nelson County BoS: Update our floodplain ordinance with Higher Standards!

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Nelson County Board of Supervisors:

Please protect Nelson from the worst consequences of future floods!

1. Update our floodplain ordinance with Higher Standards so that Nelson is eligible for participation in the National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System -- providing for greater safety, discounts on flood insurance premiums, and protection from liability.

2. Specifically define and prohibit Critical Facilities & Hazardous Materials within our floodplains. Higher Standards in the ordinance must include a definition of Critical Facilities that includes hospitals, nursing homes, emergency operations centers, public and private utility facilities that are vital to maintaining normal services, and structures or facilities that produce, use, transport or store highly volatile, flammable, explosive, toxic &/or water-reactive materials.

Why should we update our floodplain ordinance?

Nelson County is currently a member of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP is a federal program that is implemented on a local level. Localities have the authority and responsibility to properly manage development in their floodplain.

When a community chooses to join the NFIP, it must adopt and enforce minimum floodplain management standards for participation. In return, the Federal Government makes flood insurance available for almost every building and its contents within the community. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is the manager of the state's floodplain program and designated coordinating agency of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Nelson's current ordinance meets the minimum NFIP standards. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NFIP, and DCR recommend adopting higher standards than the minimum in order to protect safety and property when local conditions warrant it.

44 CFR 60.1(d) "In some instances, community officials may have access to information or knowledge of conditions that require, particularly for human safety, higher standards than the minimum criteria ... Therefore, any floodplain management regulation adopted by a State or a community which is more restrictive than the criteria set forth in this part is encouraged and shall take precedence."

Nelson County's unique "conditions" clearly warrant higher standards. Nelson was the scene of one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in the state's history, Hurricane Camille. Also, six out of the eight "High Risk Flood Hazard" characteristics defined by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), have occurred in Nelson's Special Flood Hazard Areas -- Alluvial fans, Flash flooding, Mudslides, Ice jams, High Velocity flows, and Erosion.

In addition to providing greater safety and protection of property, adopting higher standards would allow Nelson to participate in the Community Rating System (CRS) Program. Twenty-two counties in Virginia currently participate in the CRS. Property owners in CRS participating communities receive substantial discounts on NFIP policy premiums. Adopting higher standards would also protect the County from liability. As it is the sole authority on flood plain regulation (see above), it also has sole responsibility for inadequate ordinances.

Why should we define and prohibit Critical Facilities and Hazardous Materials in the flood plain?

DCR recommends defining and prohibiting Critical Facilities and Hazardous Materials as one way to adopt higher standards in floodplain ordinances for greater safety and to allow participation in the CRS.

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