Illinois continues to make strides in reducing flood risks

By on August 2, 2013

AURORA—Flooding accounts for more than 90 percent of declared disasters in Illinois. And it is no wonder—Illinois has one of the largest inland systems of rivers, lakes and streams in the United States with nearly 15 percent of its total land area flood prone.

To protect its residents, most counties and communities have adopted and enforce floodplain management ordinances that prevent new development from increasing flood heights and take actions that reduce the risk of future flooding.

“In Illinois, 82 counties and 770 communities have adopted floodplain ordinances,” said W. Michael Moore, FEMA federal coordinating officer. “While much of the attention for flood insurance is focused on Gulf and Atlantic coast states, state officials here have made a tremendous effort and we applaud them. But, more needs to be done to help residents understand the risks they face.”

Moore, along with state officials, is assisting in the recovery effort from the most recent disaster that occurred this spring affecting 47 counties in the state.

Floods are an inevitable force of nature. But development in those vulnerable areas that doesn’t take into account the potential for floods is a prescription for property damage and even loss of life.

To aid local communities, FEMA and state officials periodically identify areas vulnerable to flooding. Maps are reviewed by local officials and residents.

When vulnerable areas are first identified, local governments must take action by adopting floodplain ordinances within one year. They must also enforce the regulations that set standards for building or repairing structures in the floodplain.

In exchange, communities become eligible to join the National Flood Insurance Program, which enables home and business owners as well as renters to purchase flood insurance. To date, more than 3,500 NFIP flood insurance claims have been filed for the April 16 to May 5 flooding event.

Residents also are eligible for disaster aid, which so far amounts to $129.8 million, and communities are eligible for mitigation grants.

Communities that develop more stringent floodplain ordinances can become eligible for discounted flood insurance premiums. Forty-five Illinois communities are eligible for these reduced rates.

Communities where the floodplains have been mapped but take no action, failed to comply with their floodplain ordinances or dropped out of the program are called sanctioned. In addition to being ineligible for flood insurance and certain federal grants or loans, other consequences will apply.

Federal mortgage insurance or guarantees for loans from, for example, the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veteran affairs may not be provided in identified flood hazard areas. Also, banks, credit unions and other federally-insured financial institutions may refrain from making home loans for similarly situated houses in sanctioned communities.

Sanctioned communities can be reinstated—the first step is to adopt the floodplain ordinance.

The state of Illinois estimates that more than 250,000 structures are located in floodplain areas. Since 1993, nearly half of these structures have been mitigated, saving taxpayers millions of dollars every year. FEMA and the state are dedicated to continue these efforts that will save lives and property.

To find out more about the National Flood Insurance Program go to www.floodsmart.gov.

FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.