A floodplain is an area of land adjacent to a stream or a river that experiences flooding during periods of high water. Protecting floodplains from the impacts of development is essential for protecting water quality, reducing the risks of flooding and flood insurance rates, supporting wildlife habitat, and providing areas that can potentially be used for recreation.
Improve Water Quality. Floodplains prevent and remove pollutants in stormwater by providing open space for floodwaters to slow down and absorb into the ground. This dissipates the energy and volume of floodwaters, decreasing erosion and sedimentation within the stream. It also allows pollutants such as sediment and nutrients to settle out of floodwater.
Reduce Flood Risks. Floodplains are supposed to flood. Floodplains help spread the extra energy and volume of floodwaters along an entire stream or river system rather than concentrating it in one area where it can be more destructive. For example, a one-acre floodplain can store 1.5 million gallons of floodwater. Protecting floodplains not only reduces flood risks, it lowers flood insurance rates.
Provide Wildlife Habitat and Recreation Areas. Floodplains provide spawning ground for fish and unique habitat for a wide variety of plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. Their long corridors of connected habitat make them a rich resource for wildlife and ideal area for greenway trails.
For all these reasons, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services proactively protects floodplains from the impacts of development through local regulations. In 2000, Charlotte-Mecklenburg became the first community in the nation to show both current FEMA Floodplains and future floodplains on its official maps. Future floodplains are also called Community Floodplains and show where flooding is likely to occur in the future based on expected development upstream. As development occurs, regulations that help protect FEMA Floodplains and Community Floodplains will avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in future flood damage.
Land owners and professionals planning any “development” activity in a floodplain within the City of Charlotte and/or Mecklenburg County should have the knowledge and skills to plan, design, and construct their project in compliance with local, state and federal Floodplain Regulations. For purposes of floodplain management, “development” means any man-made change to improved and unimproved real estate, including, but not limited to, buildings or other structures, mining, dredging, filling, grading, paving, excavating or drilling operations. Floodplain development restrictions apply to both FEMA Floodplains and Community Floodplains.
For more information about the regulations that limit or ban new construction and other development in mapped floodplains, see the “Floodplain Regulations Technical Guidance Document” at Regulations.
In addition to regulations, Charlotte- Mecklenburg Storm Water Services also restores floodplains by removing homes already located in them. These efforts are usually accompanied by stream restoration activities such as replanting trees, stabilizing stream banks, and restoring natural stream characteristics. For more information about these types of projects, see the Floodplain Buyout Program at Flooding.
Questions about Floodplains?
Engineering & Mitigation Program Manager