Investing In Land: Less Dams and More Floodplain
Dams were once the good guys. The history of many places in the United States was often shaped by flooding. Rivers could be expected to go over their banks on a regular basis and even today you can see "high water" marks on downtown buildings in many towns. But in the first half of the 20th century America went on a dam building sprees that resulted in flood control, land stability and hydro-electric power. Those all sounded like pretty good benefits. Today, dams are the bad guys. Dams, many of which are in disrepair and show potential for failing, are herded into the same corral of environmental menaces as flatulent cows and pollution-spewing automobiles. Dams degrade the planet's water quality by not allowing debris to move naturally down its filtering banks. Dams create oxygen-deprived water that destroys riparian ecosystems downstream. Dams inhibit fish passage and destroy entire aquatic populations. As a result more than 1,000 dams, according to the organization Rivers America, have been pulled down in U.S. waters in recent years. On average about one dam per week has been removed this century. That means there are going to be more floods in the coming years and more floodplain property on the market. Buyers should always ask whether a targeted property is in a floodplain or projected to be in a "future floodplain." And verify the information. The FEMA Flood Map Service Center is the official public source for flood hazard information produced in support of the National Flood Insurance Program. If there are structures on your property of interest in a FEMA Floodplain you will be required to purchase flood insurance under the terms of the National flood Insurance Act of 1968. Regular homeowner insurance does not cover flood
losses. Being in a floodplain will limit what you can do to renovate or build. If the costs of repairs or renovations exceeds 50% of the building's value then the lowest floor of the entire floodplain building must be elevated to satisfy existing flood codes before improvements are made. Building codes for new construction on your floodplain property will be more restrictive. These will apply to the foundation, elevation of the building and grading. Your choice in building materials and design may be dictated by potential floodwaters as well. Those nice exterior wood details may have to be reserved for upper floors. A special permit will be in order before ground is broken. So welcome back wild rivers. Or maybe not.