What is a floodplain?
Floodplains are the low, flat lands adjacent to streams, rivers, and lakes that flood frequently. They are considered part of a health stream and are designed to hold in flood waters, as well as support a variety of natural resources and provide natural flood and erosion control.
What is floodplain Management?
Floodplain management is the operation of a community program of preventive and correct measures to reduce risk of current and future flooding, resulting in a more resilient community.
Columbia County’s Local Flood Hazard
Flooding isn’t just a threat to people living near water. Flooding in Columbia County is usually a result of intense rainfall in a brief period, which leaves more water than the ground can absorb. This type of flooding is known as flash flooding. Flash floods occur with little or no warning, move at very fast speeds, and can reach a peak in a few minutes. They can roll rocks, tear out trees, and destroy buildings and bridges.
Nature is not the only cause of flooding. New construction and paving alter land’s ability to drain properly. As a result, runoff is increased two to six times over what would occur on natural terrain. Areas that were initially zoned as low-risk can quickly become high-risk as urban development alters typography.
In Columbia County, the most densely developed area is in the vicinity of Reed Creek, Betty’s Branch and Jones Creek. Localized flooding may occur around these creeks after heavy storms.
Is your property located in a flood hazard area?
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The National Weather Service, along with the Columbia County Emergency Management Agency, provides flood warnings and evacuation data to local radio and television stations. When a flood threatens, evacuations may be ordered in areas expected to flood. Residents must be prepared to move to a place of safety. Columbia County Emergency management will announce emergency shelter locations.
Do no walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of flood deaths, mostly during flash floods. Currently can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet. If you walk in standing water, use a pole or stick to ensure the ground is still there.
Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars than anywhere else. Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be washed out.
Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The number two killer after drowning is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to your electric utility provider. Have you electricity turned off by the appropriate electric utility provider. Some appliances, such as television sets, keep electrical charges even after they have been unplugged. Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns, or open flames unless you know the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.
Property Protection Measures
Every year, flooding in the United States causes more property damage than any other type of natural disaster. While recent improvements in construction practices and regulations have made new homes less prone to flood damage, there are significant number of existing homes susceptible to flood losses. The flooding to these properties can minimized through temporary and permanent retrofitting techniques such as:
Construction a floodwall or earthen berm to keep water away from your house. These methods area accepted if you have a large lot, if the flooding isn’t too deep and if your property is not in the floodway.
Waterproofing your walls and placing watertight closures over the doorways. This method should be used on homes with basements, or if the water will not get over two feet deep.
Raise your house above the flood level.
Additional flood protection information can be found below:
Drainage System Maintenance
The Drainage system in Columbia County must be kept clean or flood risks may increase. Debris (even grass clippings) in ditches, storm drains, and streams may obstruct the flow of water and cause overflow into streets, yards, and homes. Columbia County’s Ordinance Section 34-148 makes it illegal to dump debris into any part of the county’s storm sewer system, which includes storm drains, ditches and waterways. If you see any violations, please contact the Columbia County Customer Help Desk at (706) 868-3375.
Columbia County’s Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance requires that ALL construction, additions, conversations and/or development located in areas of special flood hazard comply with certain minimum standards intended to minimize damage from floods. For example, there are restrictions on the placement of fill material in areas of special flood hazard and houses and other structures are required to be built three feet above the 100-year base flood elevation (BFE).
Columbia County also requires building permits be obtained from the Columbia County Building Standards Department prior to construction. All building permits are reviewed to determine if a property is encroached upon by the Special Flood Hazard Area. If a property is determined to be within the Special Flood Hazard Area, and elevation certificate will be required for the structure, regardless of whether the structure is located within the Special Flood Hazard Area. Columbia County must receive an elevation certificate for final construction prior to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. Columbia County retains paper copies of all elevation certificates that have been submitted:
To obtain a copy of any elevation certificate on the list contact the Stormwater Dept at (706) 855-7246.
Substantial Improvement Requirements
Columbia County requires that if the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvements to a building equals or exceeds 50% of the building’s market value, then the building must meet the same construction and floodplain management requirements as a new building. Substantially damaged buildings must also be brought up to the same standards. (e.g., a residence damaged so the cost of repairs equals or exceeds 50% of the building’s value before it was damaged must be elevated above the base flood elevation).
Columbia County is a beautiful place in which to live, and the areas within or near our floodplains are an important asset. The undisturbed wetlands provide a wide range of benefits in the human and natural systems. Water quality is improved through the wetlands ability to filter nutrients and impurities from runoff and process organic wastes. These areas provide breeding and feeding grounds for fish and wildlife, create and enhance waterfowl habitat, support a high rate of plant growth and maintain biodiversity and integrity of the ecosystem. Floodplains provide green space for protection of streams from development and the forces of erosion.