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Floodplain Permitting Procedures

To build, develop, or repair in a floodplain, both the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW) and Louisville Metro require permits.  Download the Kentucky and Louisville Metro floodplain permits here:

Following are the steps the property owner needs to take regarding state and local permitting.

STEP 1: Verify if the site is in a floodplain or special flood hazard area (SFHA)—a shaded A Zone area on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).

  • If the project site is obviously outside of the shaded A-Zone, then floodplain regulations do not apply.
  • If the project site is in a shaded A-Zone or is a borderline question, proceed to Step 2.

STEP 2: Check to see if the project meets the definition of “development” of both the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) and the local ordinance.

As a general rule of thumb, anything which alters the natural topography of the floodplain needs permit review.  “Development” includes:

  • Construction, reconstruction, or placement of a building
  • Additions to existing buildings
  • Renovation
  • Remodeling
  • Manufactured homes
  • Travel trailers (RV’s)
  • Filling or regrading
  • Excavation
  • Construction or erection of levees, dams or walls
  • Storage of materials in floodplain (including gas or liquid tanks)
  • Any other activity that might change the direction, height, or velocity of floodwaters

Development does not include: maintenance of existing building and facilities, resurfacing roads, gardening, plowing, and similar agricultural practices that do not involve filling, grading, or construction of levees.

STEP 3: Complete a Kentucky “Stream Construction Permit”/ Floodplain Permit Application

A location plat map of the site should be attached to the application form.  Plans of the proposed development should also be attached showing existing and proposed conditions, including all appropriate dimensions and elevations.  The application requires signature of the local floodplain manager.

STEP 4: Does the project include a new building or substantial improvement of an existing building

A “building” is a structure that is principally above ground and is enclosed by walls and a roof, including manufactured homes and prefabricated buildings.  The term also includes recreational vehicles and travel trailers installed on a site for more than 180 days.  Regulations require that the vehicles be road ready (fully licensed and insured) and have quick disconnect utilities.

According to Kentucky regulations (401 KAR 4:060 Stream construction criteria): ""Substantial improvement" means any combination of repairs, reconstruction, alteration, or improvements to a structure, taking place during a one (1) year period, in which the cumulative cost equals or exceeds fifty (50) percent of the market value of the structure, excluding periodic maintenance and upkeep that does not increase the value of the structure”

The market value of the structure shall be:

(a) The appraised value of the structure prior to the start of the initial repair or improvement; or

(b) If damage has occurred, the value of the structure prior to the damage.  Substantial improvement is considered to occur when the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor, or other structural part of the building commences, whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure.  The term does not, however, include any project for improvement of a structure required to comply with existing health, sanitary, or safety code specifications which are solely necessary to assure safe living conditions.”

STEP 5: Once the state issues a “stream construction permit”, a copy will be provided to the property owner, the local floodplain official, and the Division of Water Regional Office.  There will be stipulations on the state permit, as well as the base flood elevation (BFE) to which the property owner must build the lowest floor.

Local ordinances may be more stringent than state regulations and take precedence over the state permit.  In this case, a 1-foot freeboard requirement in the Louisville Metro Floodplain Management Ordinance takes precedence.

STEP 6:  Submit request for a local permit prior to starting construction from MSD. 

Submit a plan set, along with a Plan Review Application and an Application for Permit to Develop/Repair in a Floodplain to MSD's Development Team.  Drop plans off at the front desk at MSD, 700 W. Liberty Street.  This step can be done concurrently with the Kentucky Division of Water Floodplain Application; however, MSD cannot permit the project until Division of Water has approved the project.

Local ordinances may be more stringent than state regulations and take precedence over the state permit.  For instance, according to the Louisville Metro Floodplain Management Ordinance.  ““Substantial Damage / Improvement”.  Any combination of repairs, reconstruction, alteration, additions or improvements to existing development, taking place during a ten-year rolling period and begun on or after January 1, 2006 in which the cumulative cost equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure.  (See definition for Market Value.)  The term includes repairs made to a structure which has incurred substantial damage in which the cumulative costs equals or exceeds 50% of the pre-damage market value of the structure, as determined by the administering agency and/or the Commonwealth of Kentucky, regardless of the cumulative cost of the actual repair work performed.  The cost of repairs, reconstruction, alteration, additions or improvements shall reflect the value in the marketplace of the labor and materials to be used.  The first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor or other structural part of the structure whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure constitutes beginning of construction of the substantial improvement or substantial damage.  The term does not include the cost of floodproofing or elevating a structure or any portion thereof to the freeboard elevation.

Repetitive Loss.  A structure that has incurred flood-related damages on two or more occasions during a ten-year rolling period.  When a structure covered by a Standard Flood Insurance Policy under the NFIP sustains a flood-related loss and the Commonwealth of Kentucky and/or the administering agency declares the structure to be substantially or repetitively damaged, Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage will help pay for a portion of the cost to elevate, floodproof, demolish, or remove the structure.”

STEP 7:  After construction (Foundation only and Full Construction), complete an Elevation Certificate (and Floodproofing Certificate, if applicable), signed by a professional engineer, architect or licensed surveyor.

Please note:  A $1,000 elevation certificate bond is required prior to floodplain permit issuance and will be returned once the final elevation certificate is approved by MSD.

Ensure the Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate is properly completed, including:

  • Fully enclosed areas below the lowest floor have at least a minimum of two (2) openings, with a total net area of not less than 1 square inch per square foot enclosed area.  The bottom of the openings should be no higher than 1 foot above the lowest grade.  (See picture of vents and openings in the Elevation Certificate.)
  • Materials used below the lowest finished floor are resistant to flood damage;
  • Verification of proper elevation of heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), electrical, plumbing equipment, and utility meters;
  • Waterproof all water and sewer pipes and electrical and telephone lines located below the base flood elevation.

To obtain an Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate, visit MSD or go to FEMA’s website at http://www.fema.gov/business/nfip/elvinst.shtm.  You should also read FEMA’s Technical Bulletins.

STEP 8: Keep copies of all pertinent records of the following:

  • State “Stream Construction Permit” for construction in or along a stream
  • Local floodplain permit
  • Location plat map and plans, if required
  • Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate

Louisville/Jefferson County MSD,
(502) 540-6000

Kentucky Division of Water (DOW),
Water Resources Branch,
(502) 564-3410

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

For more Information on Flood Insurance or to find a local flood insurance agent, go to FloodSmart.gov.

Last Updated: October 29, 2013

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