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Oklahoma's Floodplain Management 101

Chapter 2: Oklahoma Floodplain Management Legislation

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Chapter 2 Appendix

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Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act

The Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act, Title 82, O. S. 2001, §1601-1618, as amended, was passed by the State Legislature in 1980 and revised several times. In approving the Act, the Legislature recognized the need for a united effort between local and state government to combat recurrent flood damages. The Act establishes a state and local partnership to reduce flood damages through sound floodplain management. A copy of the complete text of the Act as it appears in the Oklahoma Statutes is provided in Appendix 2-1.

The State of Oklahoma recognized the personal and economic hardships caused by flood disasters, and recognized that it had become uneconomical for the private insurance industry to make flood insurance available to those in need of protection. Therefore, the Act paved the way for each community to implement wise floodplain management and thereby participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. This participation allows those citizens who need low-cost flood insurance to purchase it through the federal program. The act also addresses the need for the preservation and restoration of the natural resources and functions of the floodplains. Flood insurance through the NFIP becomes available when floodplain boards adopt floodplain regulations in compliance with certain requirements. The Act provides for the following:
  • Authorizes the establishment of floodplain boards;
  • Provides for appointment and organization of floodplain boards;
  • Authorizes floodplain boards to adopt floodplain regulations and the procedure for such adoption;
  • Directs the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to develop and publish criteria for the establishment of floodplains and floodplain regulations;
  • Provides for cooperative agreements;
  • Provides for redefinition of floodplains;
  • Prohibits certain construction and development;
  • Provides for the exemption of the use of usual farm buildings for agricultural purposes, the planting of crops or the construction of farm ponds;
  • Provides for issuance of permits for construction in the floodplain (development permit);
  • Provides exceptions for certain pre-existing uses of floodplains;
  • Provides for variances;
  • Provides for fees;
  • Provides penalties for acts;
  • Provides for the needs of industry or agriculture located within a floodplain;
  • Provides for appeals;
  • Preserves boards and regulations already in existence; and
  • Provides that floodplain boards designate a floodplain administrator accredited by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board.
In most cases OWRB staff will meet with community officials and provide a program overview. It is very important for community officials to understand that the program is Quid Pro Quo. That is community officials give their word that they will regulate development in the special flood hazard areas. In turn, FEMA allows the sale of low-cost flood insurance in that community.

Then, the Municipal governing body/Board of County Commissioners meets and adopts resolution to:

  • Create the Floodplain Board
  • Appoint members (must meet qualifications established in 82 O.S., §1605)
  • Set duties of Floodplain Board as provided in statutes (See 82 O.S., §§1601 et seq.)

(OML agenda item must include all 3 points listed above.)

This resolution can be downloaded from the OWRB website at www.owrb.ok.gov. This website contains NFIP enrollment packets for cities, towns or counties as well as model ordinances.

Then, the Floodplain Board publishes notice of public hearing in newspaper of general circulation in city/county at least 30 days prior to hearing. Notice must state time, place and purpose of hearing. Notice should also provide that copies of proposed regulations are available for inspection at certain locations. Floodplain Board shall also notify the OWRB 30 days prior to hearing and include copy of proposed regulations.

Then, the Floodplain Board holds hearing, makes resolution-adopting regulations and files these regulations with OWRB within 15 days. (OML agenda item must mention both hearing and adoption of floodplain regulations.)

Then, the Municipal government body/Board of County Commissioners adopts resolution-approving regulations adopted by Floodplain Board. (OML agenda item required.)

Then, the Floodplain Board completes the NFIP enrollment form. This form is available from the OWRB website. The Floodplain Board then submits two copies of the original resolutions, ordinance and form to FEMA, Region VI, 800 N. Loop 288, Denton, Texas 76201-3606.

In summary, it becomes apparent that joining the NFIP and adopting and approving these regulations and flood damage prevention ordinance is a legal process. Once a community joins the NFIP, it wants to be sure that these resolutions and ordinance were adopted and approved in accordance with the Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act. After all, when a community goes through this procedure it will have the power to enforce and administer its flood damage prevention ordinance (i.e. police power). Appendices 2-2 and 2-3 provide further detail on requirements and procedures for joining the NFIP.

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Oklahoma Water Resources Board

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) is the state agency responsible for assisting local communities in Oklahoma in the implementation of the Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act. The Act assigns several duties to the OWRB including the following:

  • The OWRB is authorized to assist in the establishment of floodplain boards and review ordinances. The Act requires communities wishing to participate in the NFIP to establish floodplain boards as a prerequisite.
  • The OWRB coordinates floodplain activities between local, state & federal entities. As the state coordinating agency for the NFIP, the OWRB is in a position to ensure FEMA's awareness of local needs when implementing the NFIP. The OWRB is able to provide information on situations unique to the area or that are significant to local or statewide interests. The OWRB also works closely with other federal agencies involved in floodplain management, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, to encourage adequate participation in the planning and/or selection of flood control or hazard mitigation projects. Also, OWRB reviews local programs to ensure they are enforcing their flood damage preparation. The OWRB has authority to review situations where communities fail to enforce their ordinances. If all efforts by the OWRB to instigate compliance were met with resistance, FEMA would be asked to handle the matter.
  • The OWRB provides technical assistance to aid the floodplain boards in identifying and delineating the special flood hazard areas within their jurisdiction. The OWRB helps coordinate review of existing flood maps and prioritize needs for map revisions.
  • The OWRB provides education and training to increase the level of knowledge and awareness that Oklahoma citizens have concerning flooding and floodplain management issues. The Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act, as amended, requires that each floodplain administrator be accredited by the OWRB. OWRB workshops, publications and administrative guidebook about flooding and floodplain management are examples of efforts to meet this responsibility.
  • Members of OWRB serve on the state floodplain board. The state floodplain board administers and enforces the rules and regulations for construction on state-owned or state-operated property within floodplains, and is composed of the nine members of the OWRB.

The NFIP recognizes that local governments do not always have the expertise or resources needed to develop and administer a floodplain management program that meets the requirements. The OWRB can offer the following types of assistance to local governments:

  • Advice or recommendations in preparation and adoption of a floodplain ordinance or regulations.
  • Guidance in developing a system to administer the ordinance (i.e. establishment of a development permit system).
  • Technical assistance in reviewing or interpreting the hydraulic flood hazard data supplied to the community by FEMA.
  • Technical assistance in interpreting NFIP program requirements.
  • Advice or assistance in developing other floodplain management tools (besides floodplain regulations) such as the preparation of flood hazard mitigation plans, structural works to alleviate flood problems or acquisition and relocation programs.
  • Assistance in locating other sources of information.

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Floodplain Management Standards

NFIP regulations contain the minimum standards a community is required to adopt to participate in the NFIP. These standards are discussed fully in Chapter 3, but they are mentioned briefly here to emphasize their importance. A community can adopt more stringent standards and is encouraged to do so, but doing so is strictly voluntary.

  • No use shall be permitted in the floodway that results in any increase in the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
  • Residential structures in the flood fringe must have the lowest floor (including the basement) elevated to, or above, the BFE.
  • Nonresidential structures must have the lowest floor (including the basement) elevated or floodproofed to, or above, the BFE.
  • Other forms of development shall not cause the BFE to be exceeded by more than one (1) foot in unnumbered A zones.
  • If the proposed development could change the BFE, the community must follow the map revision procedures. These procedures are delineated in Chapter 4.

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Community Responsibilities

The Oklahoma Floodplain Management Act directs communities to establish floodplain boards and adopt floodplain management ordinances before applying to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. The Act also directs communities to submit to OWRB the floodplain management ordinances for review before adoption. By reviewing the ordinances, the OWRB can determine if they comply with the intent, purposes and provisions of the state's Act, thus allowing the communities to make any necessary changes. Once communities are participants in the NFIP, they must ensure compliance with the ordinances.

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Local communities that have never participated in or have been suspended from the NFIP are not eligible to receive some forms of disaster assistance from the federal government in the event of a flood disaster. Neither are individuals in nonparticipating communities eligible to receive Federal Disaster Assistance or loans for flood losses. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board works with communities to achieve a compliance that demonstrates a good faith effort before asking FEMA to step into the picture. Public assistance for road, bridge and various types of infrastructure repair will be available to nonparticipating and participating communities. Hazard Mitigation, Flood Mitigation and Pre Disaster Mitigation Funds will only be approved for NFIP participating communities. Communities with public buildings in the one hundred year floodplain are encouraged to join the NFIP and purchase flood insurance for that building. If the building is not covered by a flood policy the disaster benefit will be reduced proportionately.

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State-Owned or -Operated Property

As authorized by Title 82, Oklahoma Statutes 1980, Sections 1601-1619, the rules and regulations have been promulgated and adopted for any type of development on state-owned or state-operated property within floodplains. The purpose of these rules and regulations ". . . is to conform with the requirements necessary to establish eligibility and maintain participation in the National Flood Insurance Program, as well as to protect the public health, safety and general welfare by restricting vulnerable floodplain improvements and uses which increase flood damage potential elsewhere." A copy of the OWRB Rules can be found and downloaded at http://www.owrb.ok.gov/util/rules/rules.php.

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Landlord and Seller Responsibility

Landlords in Oklahoma have a responsibility to their tenants to disclose flood information on their rental property. This responsibility became a law in 1986 and is known as Title 41, Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Sec. 113a (see Appendix 2-4 ). A seller of property in Oklahoma has the responsibility to present to the buyer, a written disclosure of known defects to the property that includes disclosure of the property's flood zone status. This law, which became effective July 1, 1995, is the Oklahoma Residential Property Condition Disclosure Act, Title 60, O.S., Section 831 et. seq. (see Appendix 2-5).

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