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Indiana Department of Natural Resources

Water > Community Assistance & Information Community Assistance & Information

What is a floodplain?
Indiana Code 14-8-2-99 defines floodplain as "the area adjoining a river or stream that has been or may be covered by floodwater". The amount of flooding used to establish permitting jurisdiction is known as the regulatory flood. The regulatory flood is defined in 312 IAC 10-2-35 (Adobe pdf file) as "a flood having a 1 % probability of being equaled or exceeded in a year as calculated by a method and procedure that is approved by the commission. The regulatory flood is equivalent to the base flood or the 100-year frequency flood." The floodplain is divided into two districts: floodway and fringe. Proposed new developments and improvements are subject to different floodplain regulations depending on the location in relation to the floodplain.

What is the floodway?
The Floodway is defined in IC 14-8-2-102 as:

  1. The channel of a river or stream; and
  2. The parts of the floodplain adjoining the channel that are reasonably required to efficiently carry and discharge the flood water or flood flow of a river or stream

Requirements for the floodway portion of the floodplain:
The DNR Division of Water has jurisdiction in Indiana's floodways for most development activities. Typical examples of floodway projects subject to DNR review and approval are fills, excavations, bridges, utilities, and non-residential structures. See the Statutes/Rules section for specific information on the DNR's permitting jurisdiction.

What is the fringe?
The Fringe is defined in 312 IAC 10-2-35 as "portions of a floodplain lying outside the floodway".

How do I know if I am in a floodplain?
The regulatory floodplain is the area shown as Zone A on the local communities Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). This area includes both the floodway and the fringe portions of the floodplain. If your community participates in the NFIP, the local planning or zoning official probably maintains current copies of floodplain maps for your area. If not, development activities within the floodway portion of the floodplain are still subject to the applicable permitting program's requirements. If a floodplain determination cannot be made, the DNR's Division of Water does perform site-specific floodplain analysis and regulatory assessments. Fill out the Request for Floodplain Information form (pdf file ) in as much detail as possible and submit with a location map to inquire about the floodplain status of a particular property.

Requirements for the fringe portion of the floodplain:
There is no State review of or permit issued for development activities within the fringe portion of the floodplain. However, when a community adopts floodplain regulations, they must be approved by the Department, and may not be less restrictive than 312-IAC-10. In addition, most communities in Indiana participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which requires that certain federal regulations be adopted and enforced by the community for the entire floodplain. These regulations are in addition to the requirements of the State's floodway permitting and floodplain management programs. Federal regulations regarding floodplain management for communities that participate in the NFIP are listed in 44 CFR Part 60: Criteria for Land Management and Use.

National Flood Insurance Program in Indiana
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a Federal program enabling property owners in participating communities to purchase flood insurance. Participation in the NFIP is based on an agreement between the local community (County, City, or Town) and the Federal Government. It states that if the community will adopt and enforce certain floodplain management regulations to ensure safe development of flood prone areas, the Federal Government will make flood insurance available within the community as a financial protection against flood losses. In Indiana, there are approximately 390 cities, towns, and counties that voluntarily participate in the NFIP. To view the complete list of communities in Indiana that participate in the NFIP, visit FEMA's web site. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Water, is the State Coordinating Agency for the NFIP. The Division of Water's Floodplain Management Section is responsible for providing technical assistance to local communities in implementing their floodplain management regulations. Staff members review communities' regulations and recent floodplain development to ensure compliance with the program and provide reports of their findings to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The Division of Water also assists private citizens requesting information on floodplain management regulations. For more information on the NFIP, go to FEMA's NFIP web site.

Why do I need to purchase flood insurance?
For virtually every mortgage transaction involving a structure in Indiana, the lender has a Standard Flood Hazard Determination Form (SFDF) completed. If it is determined that the structure is located within an identified floodplain and in an NFIP participating community, the borrower is notified that flood insurance will be required as a condition of receiving the loan. This fulfills the lender's obligation under the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Reform Act of 1994 that requires the purchase of flood insurance by property owners who are being assisted by Federal programs or by Federally regulated institutions in the acquisition of structures located or to be located in the floodplain.

What if my property is in a floodplain and my community does not participate in the NFIP?
The purchase of flood insurance does not apply to conventional loans made by Federally regulated lenders when the community in which the building is located is not participating in the NFIP. In these cases, the lending institution is required to notify the borrower that, in the event of a flood-related Presidentially declared disaster, Federal disaster assistance will not be available for the repair of the building. Federally regulated or insured lending institutions are required in all cases to notify the borrower when the building being used to secure a loan is located in an identified floodplain. It should be noted that a Federally regulated lending institution that chooses to make a loan under these circumstances cannot sell the loan to the Federally regulated secondary market, which is a common practice.

Can I get the flood insurance requirement waived for my property?
If applicable, a Letter Of Map Amendment (LOMA) can be issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for your property. A LOMA is an official revision by letter to an effective NFIP map. A LOMAÂ results from an administrative procedure that involves the review of scientific or technical data submitted by the property owner who believes the property has incorrectly been included in a designated floodplain. The key data needed to obtain a LOMA is to demonstrate that the lowest natural ground elevation adjacent to the structure is at or above the published base flood elevation for the property. A LOMA amends the currently effective FEMA map and establishes that a specific property is not located in a floodplain.

What is the Flood Control Revolving Fund?
The Flood Control Revolving Fund was created by the Indiana General Assembly in the 1950's to provide a low interest loan program to help finance local flood control programs. Through I.C. 14-28-5, a loan may be made to a municipality, city, town, county, or special taxing district for the purpose of instituting, accomplishing, and administering any approved flood control program as defined in the Flood Control Revolving Fund Act. The administration of the fund and the responsibility for the provisions of the Act are vested in the Natural Resources Commission. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Water, is the agency that coordinates matters related to the Flood Control Revolving Fund. Click here for application information and form.

Who is eligible to use the Flood Control Revolving Fund?
The Flood Control Revolving Fund is available to a municipality, city, town, county, or special taxing district for the purpose of instituting, accomplishing, and administering an approved flood control program. The Flood Control Revolving Fund is also available to a conservancy district to pay for the costs of establishing a district and costs associated with preparing the district plan for any of the purposes for which a conservancy district can be established.

What is an approved Flood Control Program?
An approved flood control program may include:

  • Clearing and straightening of channels of streams.
  • Creating of new and enlarged channels of streams.
  • Building or repairing of dikes, levees, or other flood protective works.
  • Construction of bank protection works for streams.
  • Establishment of floodways.
  • Removal of obstructions and accumulated debris from channel of streams.

The proposed flood control program is subject to approval by the Natural Resources Commission. The program must be needed for the purpose of protecting public health, safety, and general welfare.

What are the terms of a Flood Control Revolving Fund Loan?
A Flood Control Revolving Fund Loan to any local unit of government cannot exceed $300,000. A Flood Control Revolving Fund Loan may be made for a period not to exceed ten years. A Flood Control Revolving Fund Loan bears a 3% interest rate.

What is a conservancy district?
The Indiana Conservancy Act (IC 14-33) provides a mechanism by which landowners, through a circuit court process, can organize a special taxing district (a local unit of government) to solve specific local issues related to water resources management.

What issues can be addressed through the Conservancy Act?

  • Flood prevention and control.
  • Improving drainage.
  • Providing for irrigation.
  • Providing water supply, including treatment and distribution, for domestic, industrial, and public use.
  • Providing for the collection, treatment, and disposal of sewage and other liquid wastes.
  • Developing forests, wildlife areas, parks, and recreational facilities where feasible in connection with beneficial water management.
  • Preventing the loss of topsoil from injurious water erosion.
  • Storage of water for augmentation of stream flow.
  • Operation, maintenance, and improvement of any work of improvement for water based recreational purposes, or other work of improvement that could have been built for any other purpose authorized by the Act.

How is a Conservancy District formed?

  • Often a local steering group first forms to research the issues and gather input from those who would be benefited/affected.
  • To form a district, a petition is created and then circulated in the area to be included in and served by the proposed district. This petition is then filed in the circuit court of the county having the most land in the proposed district.
  • The percentage of signatures on the petition is dependent on the number of freeholders owning land in the proposed district or proportion of all freeholders in the proposed district.
  • A municipality may file a petition to initiate a proposed district by ordinance adopted by the legislative body.

What area can be in a Conservancy District?

  • Boundaries of a conservancy district are based upon the identification of properties expected to be benefited by the establishment of the district.
  • Any area may be included in a district regardless of it political boundaries; however, the district needs to be contiguous with all other parts of the district and cannot overlap another district established for the same purpose.

How is a Conservancy District established?

  • Once the circuit court determines the petition bears the necessary signatures and it is correct as to form and content, the court will refer the petition to the Natural Resources Commission (NRC).
  • The NRC conducts a public hearing, gathers input, and prepares a report to the court. Items in this technical review include whether the proposed district:
    • Appears to be necessary.
    • Holds promise of economic and engineering feasibility.
    • Offers benefits in excess of costs and damages.
    • Serves the public health immediately or prospectively.
    • Proposes to cover and serve a proper area.
    • Could be compatible with other water management or water supply projects.
  • When the circuit court receives the fact-finding report from the NRC, the court will schedule a hearing regarding the establishment of the district. The statute provides an opportunity for additional evidence to be given at this hearing.

Who provides oversight of the Conservancy District?

  • A circuit court determines whether to approve the establishment or dissolution of a conservancy district and has jurisdiction for oversight of an existing conservancy district.
  • Budgets passed by the board of directors must also be approved by the Department of Local Government Finance.
  • Conservancy districts are also subject to periodic audits by the State Board of Accounts.
  • Permits from various local, State and Federal agencies may be required for various work conducted by a Conservancy District.

Who manages the Conservancy District?

  • Freeholders serve on the board of directors and provide management for a district.
  • After a conservancy district is established by the circuit court, an initial board of directors is appointed by the county commissioners.
  • The subsequent directors are then elected by the freeholders of the district.
  • Some boards hire staff to conduct the business of the district.

Who controls the activities engaged in by a Conservancy District?

  • The jurisdiction over activities of a conservancy district ultimately lies with the circuit court that established the district for specific purposes.
  • The Natural Resources Commission acts as a friend to the court by providing technical review and recommendations for specified district activities, which include: establishment, district plan, unit of work, addition of area, addition of purpose, and dissolution of a district.
  • District leadership, decision making and the day to day operations, however are accomplished through the conservancy district’s board directors.

What is the role of the Board of Directors?

  • One of the first responsibilities of the initial board of directors is to develop a district plan. The district plan consists of an engineering report that sets forth the general, comprehensive plan for accomplishment of the purpose or purposes for which the district was established.
  • The board of directors shall be responsible to place the district plan in operation by implementing the approved purpose(s) and by providing operation and maintenance as provided for in the district plan.

Who approves the district plan?

  • After the board of directors prepares the district plan, and according to statute it must be reviewed and approved by the NRC. According to the nonrule policy document developed by the Natural Resources Commission (Information Bulletin #36), the authority to approve or disapprove a district plan has been delegated from the Natural Resources Commission to the Director of the DNR, Division of Water.
  • If the plan accomplishes, in an economical manner, the purpose or purposes for which the district is established, it will be forwarded to the circuit court for review and final approval.

How does a Conservancy District pay for its works of improvement?

  • Initially to cover legal and engineering start up costs associated with the formation of a district, steering groups sometimes seek voluntary contributions from future freeholders or existing property owner associations.
  • Expenses and obligations of the district may be paid from any of the following:
    • The receipt of gifts from any source.
    • The receipt of funds from governmental agencies.
    • The receipt of funds from the sale of services accomplished by the purpose or purposes for which the district was established.
    • The receipt of funds from the collection of assessments from land that receives exceptional benefits from the operation of the district plan.
    • The collection of assessments for maintenance and operation of works of improvement.
  • Under the Indiana Conservancy Act, all of the real property included in the district constitutes a taxing district for the purpose of levying special benefit taxes to pay for the expenses of establishing the district, general preliminary and administrative expenses, and operating and maintaining the district. This special tax equals the amount of benefits received and must be based on return for the benefits.

What is a River Basin Commission?
River Basin Commissions are established by the legislature to address basin wide water resource issues. The River Basin Commissions (Kankakee, Maumee, St. Joseph, and Upper Wabash) were established under IC 14-30. The Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission was established under IC 14-13-2. River Basin Commissions were created to:

  • Promote flood control
  • Encourage soil and water conservation
  • Improve water quality
  • Increase cooperative planning and coordinated management of a basin's water and related land resources
  • Support coordinated and cooperative action in the planning, development, and management of water resources

The Division of Water's Project Development Section provides technical guidance and serves as a liaison between the DNR and the Kankakee River Basin Commission, the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, the Maumee River Basin Commission and the Upper Wabash River Basin Commission. The Division of Fish & Wildlife serves as the DNR liaison to the St. Joseph River Basin Commission.

How do I get more information about a River Basin Commission?