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Local Government Resource Desk

Planning & Land Use

Floodplain Management


A "floodplain" is the lowland adjacent to a river, lake, or ocean. Floodplains are designated by the frequency of the flood that is large enough to cover them. For example, the 10-year floodplain will be covered by the flood having a 1 in 10 chance of occurring annually. The 100-year floodplain is more commonly referred to as the one-percent flood or a flood having a one percent chance of occurring annually.

Flood frequencies, such as the one-percent flood (100-year flood), are determined by plotting a graph of the size of all known floods for an area and determining how often floods of a particular size occur.


The Division of Community and Regional Affairs serves as the Governor's appointed state coordinating agency for the National Flood Insurance Program and the Flood Mitigation Assistance Program. The Mission of the Division's Floodplain Management Program is to reduce public and private sector losses and damage from flooding and erosion by providing coordination, and technical assistance to National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) communities. All boroughs and cities that are floodprone or have a tsunami risk are encouraged to join this program.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that allows property owners in participating communities to purchase flood insurance as a protection against flood losses. In exchange the state and local community must enact floodplain management regulations that reduce the possibility of future flood damage. If a community adopts and enforces a floodplain management ordinance to reduce future flood risk to new construction in floodplains, the federal government will make flood insurance available within the community as a financial protection against flood losses. This insurance is designed to provide an insurance alternative to disaster assistance to reduce the escalating costs of repairing damage to buildings and their contents caused by floods.

Alaska's vast coastal areas and inland water bodies make Alaskan communities especially vulnerable to flooding and emphasize the need to protect homes and businesses from the damaging affects of floods, flood-related erosion, and tsunamis. The goals of the NFIP are to:

  • protect people and property;
  • make sure federal flood and disaster assistance is available;
  • save tax dollars;
  • avoid liability and law suits; and
  • reduce future flood losses.
Frequently Asked Questions

What is Floodplain Management?

Floodplain management promotes corrective and preventative measures for reducing flood damage at the community level. These measures take a variety of forms and generally include preparing a special-purpose floodplain ordinance and flood mitigation plan. Ideally, a local flood mitigation program ties in zoning, subdivision, and building codes.

Before the creation of the NFIP, floodplain management as a practice was not well established - only a few states and communities actually regulated floodplain development. For many Alaska communities, the NFIP was the community's first exposure to land use planning and land use regulations.

A community's agreement to adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances, particularly with respect to new construction is an important element in making flood insurance available to home and business owners. Currently over 20,000 communities voluntarily adopt and enforce local floodplain ordinances that provide flood loss reduction building standards for new and existing development. More than 85 percent of the state's population reside in a city or borough that participates in the NFIP.

Who should be covered by flood insurance?

Everyone living or doing business within the flood plain or that have a risk of tsunami, mudslide, or flood-related erosion damage. All homeowners, renters, and businesses in areas vulnerable to flooding should consider purchasing flood insurance. Unfortunately, most people don't think of flood insurance until after the flood has occurred - at this point it is too late.

What authority and responsibility does the local governing body have for floodplain management?

State law (see the applicable laws section of this chapter) authorizes local government to regulate land use and establish the process whereby land use regulations will be enforced. Communities that participate in the NFIP, in addition to other requirements, agree to:

  • adopt and enforce a flood damage prevention ordinance;
  • require permits for development within the floodplain and assure that building sites are reasonably safe from flooding;
  • determine flood level;
  • require that structures be elevated above flood level;
  • conduct field inspections; and
  • advise FEMA when flood map updates are needed.

How do I know if the community I live in is in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)?

The Division of Community and Regional Affairs (DCRA) maintains a website with a list of communities that have flood insurance. Participation in the NFIP is voluntary. Contact the appropriate local government office or local planning office in your community to find out what the community's status is regarding the National Flood Insurance program.

Is federal flood insurance available in the Unorganized Borough?

No. Federal flood insurance may be available within the city limits of a participating city in the Unorganized Borough, but not outside of an incorporated city in the Unorganized Borough. In order to adopt and enforce land use regulations there has to be an identified entity to enact and enforce the regulations. AS 29.03.020 allows the Alaska Legislature to establish service areas for land use regulation and other purposes in the Unorganized Borough but so far this has not been done.

If the community I live in is not in the NFIP how do we join?

Your local governing body must pass a resolution authorizing participation in the NFIP. The governing body must also complete a one-page application and adopt a local ordinance that contains protective floodplain development standards that must be sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Region X in Bothell, WA for review and approval. Contact the NFIP State Coordinator with the Division of Community and Regional Affairs at (907) 269-4567 for assistance.

Why does my community have to adopt an ordinance to join the NFIP?

The NFIP is based upon an agreement between the federal government and a community that if the community manages development that may occur in hazard prone areas then flood insurance can be available. The reasoning is that if a community does its part to reduce future flood damages - by adopting a protective land use ordinance and issuing and reviewing permits for development - then the community is allowed the opportunity for its citizens to purchase flood insurance.

If a community agrees to adopt an ordinance governing development in a floodplain area and joins the NFIP, how does community staff go about enforcing the ordinance?

Staff from the Division of Community and Regional Affairs and occasionally FEMA's regional office are available to conduct visits to the community and explain the technical details of the ordinance. Also, workshops are available as well as publications. Contact Division of Community and Regional Affairs for information on what technical assistance is available.

Additional Resources

State of Alaska, Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, Flood Plain Management

Sally Cox
Division of Community and Regional Affairs
550 W. 7th Avenue, Suite 1650
Anchorage, AK 99501-3510
Phone: (907) 269-4588
Fax: (907) 269-4563


Recommended web site search topics:

  • Flood Insurance Library
  • FEMA library - preparation and prevention
  • Federal Register National Flood Insurance Program
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency - now under the Department of Homeland Security - search for hazard mitigation planning
  • Alaska Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Applicable Laws and Regulations

Federal Law

  • National Flood Insurance 42 USC 50.4001 et seq.
  • National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (NFIA), (42 USC 4104c), as amended by National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 (NFIRA), (42 U.S.C. 4101).
  • Flood Management Act 44 CFR Part 62.

Alaska Statutes

  • AS 26.23.010-.025 Governor's declaration of disaster emergency, declaration time limit, termination or extension of emergency declaration, legislature's resolution, appropriation of funds, activation of disaster emergency plans.
  • AS 26.23.070-.130 Interjurisdictional service and planning areas, factors considered in finding for interjurisdictional planning area, emergency response commission, emergency planning districts and committees, committee appointments, planning committee duties, emergency plan review, incident command systems, federal loans to political subdivisions, grants to disaster victims, temporary housing, interstate civil defense and disaster compact.
  • AS 26.23.140-.400 Local disaster emergencies, authorized declaration, disaster prevention, compensation for personal services and property, communications systems, mutual aid, emergency powers, limitations, application/relationship to civil defense laws, administration, disaster relief and fuel emergency funds.
  • AS 26.23.900 Definitions.
  • AS 29.03.010-.030 Establishment of the unorganized borough, service areas within unorganized borough, land use regulation within service areas, limitations on establishment of service areas, platting authority of DNR.
  • AS 29.35.180 Planning within a first or second class borough in accordance with AS 29.40, planning within a home rule borough.
  • AS 29.35.260 Planning outside boroughs.
  • AS 29.35.450-.490 Service areas within a borough or unified municipality, city within service area, limitations on creation of service areas, service area boards, financing service area.
  • AS 29.40.010-.200 Planning, platting, land use regulation, borough responsibilities, delegation of responsibilities, planning commission, mandatory planning commissions, borough comprehensive plan, limitation on land use regulation variance, appeal, delegation of authority.
  • AS 29.45.230 Option to assess, reassess, and reduce taxes on property affected by a natural disaster, taxpayer affidavit, affected tax period, tax refund, notice and hearing, appeal, disaster declaration, definition.

Revised 12/18/2014