Floodway just plain wet

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 9, 2003

Want to build in Dallas County? Better check with Brett Howard first.

He’s the director of the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency, and as such holds the keys to county building permits, which you’ll need if you want to build around here.

The permits &045;&045; which regulate building in the county’s flood plain &045;&045; are free, but the studies that may be required to get the permits probably won’t be. People hoping to get permits must provide to Howard information like where they’re moving, the kind of house they’re planning to build and the cost of construction.

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Howard checks to see if the building lies in the flood plain and flood way. If it does, a flood plain development permit is needed, and that’s where the studies come in. The flood way &045;&045; which is considered the most dangerous area of the flood plain &045;&045; is where high velocity water is discharged. The water’s velocity can cause erosion and debris accumulation.

To have a home in the flood plain requires an elevation certificate. To obtain the certificate, a surveyor must evaluate the land and determine the base flood elevation of the area.

The base flood elevation in Dallas County is determined by such factors as the Alabama River’s depth and the land’s topography. In Dallas County, the top of the home’s lowest floor must be at least one foot above the base flood elevation. The height above the base flood elevation also affects flood insurance.

An elevation certificate is also required to get flood insurance.

With an elevation certificate, Howard estimated he could provide the building permit that day. However, if the future building is also in the flood way, a no-rise impact study is also required before a permit is issued.

A no-rise study takes about 2-6 weeks and requires a certified engineer. It also costs about $400-$4,000, depending on how much land is involved in the study.

The study, though, is essential for the safety of surrounding communities. It determines if the flood way would rise or widen if a home were built on it. Howard said a building placed improperly could conceivably divert waters into an area not even in the flood plain.

That wouldn’t just put residents in danger, it could get the county kicked out of the national flood insurance program. Without program membership, no one in the county could purchase flood insurance. And that could be a disaster, especially if you’re living in a &uot;100-year flood plain,&uot; which means there is a 1 percent chance in any given year a flood will occur.

For more information, contact Howard at 874-2515.