Harris County adjusts building code for homes, businesses in 100-year floodplain after Harvey

Harris County officials approved new building code regulations for all construction projects within the 100-year floodfloodplain that require a permit.  This new code, which was unanimously approved and will be effective January 1, will require homes and businesses located within the 100-year floodplain to be built two feet above the 500-year floodplain to mitigate future flooding.

Although many people think that the “years” of the floodplains are the “time frame” or frequency of floods, they numbers correlate with the probability of a flood occurring on an annual basis.  According to the Harris County Flood Control District, the 500-year floodplain is the area of land that has a .2 percent chance of flooding each year. A 100-year floodplain is the area that has a 1 percent chance of flooding each year.

While FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) will  likely update federal flood maps, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said that editing the building code is a preliminary measure as the county waits for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Detention and flood mitigation requirements are based on the FEMA floodplains. However, it took seven years for FEMA to edit the floodplain maps after Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, leaving the county seeking more immediate solutions, Emmett said.

“The maps are going to change, but we can’t wait for FEMA to redo all of the maps,” Emmett said. “We can use what we have. That’s why we’re erring on the side of caution. We’re getting people well above what we think the water is going to be at in the future.”

While this change will likely increase costs for developers and builders, it has been reported that they have responded positively to this regulation.

For more information on some FAQ’s regarding flood insurance, visit the Harris County Flood Education Mapping Tool.


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