Floodplain Management

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About
The St. Charles Parish floodplain management responsibilities are handled through the Planning and Zoning Department. St. Charles Parish is a participating community in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and as such, flood insurance is available to St. Charles Parish residents. 

Floodplain management influences most aspects of parish government from building permit requirements to the design and construction of drainage systems. As a participating parish, many services are available though the Planning and Zoning Department, including required building elevations, information on floodproofing and help with answers about flood insurance.

Flood Insurance
Purchase Flood Insurance! Most standard homeowners' insurance policies do not cover losses from flooding. Renters can also buy policies to protect their personal property. You are eligible for flood insurance because St. Charles Parish participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. If the FEMA flood maps show that a property is in an A99, AE or VE Zone, flood insurance is required by law in order to get a loan or mortgage.

In St. Charles Parish, the purchase of flood insurance on a voluntary basis is wise even outside of Special Flood Hazard Areas. Call your insurance agent for flood insurance information. Once you've purchased flood insurance, keep your policy and an itemized list of your furnishings, clothing and valuables in a safe place, such as a safe deposit box. Call your agent or broker immediately if you suffer flood damage.


Property Protection
There are many things you can do to an existing building to minimize or eliminate the potential for flood damage.

  • Sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting and lumber can be used to protect property temporarily. (Remember sandbags should not be stacked against the outer walls of a building since wet bags may create added pressure to the foundation).

  • Permanent flood proofing measures for flood-prone structures are preferable to temporary ones. These permanent retrofitting methods include elevating the structure, building flood walls and closures and protecting utilities. Contact the U.S. Corps of Engineers Floodplain Services or St. Charles Parish's Department of Planning and Zoning at (985) 783-5060.

  • You can also get information on retrofitting flood insurance, flood protection and floodplain management from the St. Charles Parish Public Library's main libraries in Destrehan and Luling.

  • Before proceeding with retrofitting measures or any construction and development (i.e. filling, dredging and/or remodeling) check with the Department of Planning and Zoning at (985) 783-5060 for applicable building permit requirements and zoning restrictions.


Drainage System Maintenance

To be habitable, St. Charles Parish needs to have a sophisticated drainage system allowing flood waters to be pumped over levee systems that surround the parish. The St. Charles Parish Department of Public Works has a regular program of drainage system maintenance. You can help by cleaning catch basins in front of your property. Also, avoid dumping debris in catch basins, drainage ditches and canals. Debris can cause the drainage system to function improperly and cause flooding. Call the Department of Public Works at (985) 783-5102 if you have questions.

Flood Hazard
Flooding can occur during any season of the year. Because so much of the land in St. Charles Parish is low, your property may be in a Special Flood Hazard Area as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The principal source of floodwater in the parish is rain. In late summer, hurricanes and their tidal surges also pose a serious threat. 

Floodwater collects because most of St. Charles lies at or below sea level in a saucer of land prone to subsidence, or sinking. The low flat ground provides little gravity drainage, so water that falls in the parish must be pumped out.

Maps showing flood hazard areas are on file at your local library, the Planning and Zoning office or the online flood mapping portal.


Flood Safety
The parish flood warning system can provide an early notification of flooding conditions.

  • A flood watch means flooding is possible. A flash flood watch means a flash flood can happen very fast with little warning is possible.

  • A flood warning means a flood is occurring or will occur soon; the flood may take several hours to develop. A flash flood warning means a flash flood is occurring or will happen very soon; you should find safety immediately.

  • Listen to local stations for news information and instructions. Keep a supply of fresh batteries on hand to operate a portable radio in case electrical power is lost. Tune your radio to 870 AM or 101.9 FM for emergency broadcasts or to SCP-TV for more information.

  • If emergency officials tell you to evacuate or leave your home, go immediately to a safe shelter. Turn off all utilities at the main switch but only if time permits. Do not touch any electrical equipment unless it is in a dry area. Every source of electricity can be dangerous during and after flooding.

  • If you're caught in a building by suddenly rising water, move to the second floor or the roof (you may need a tool on hand to break through to the roof). Take drinking water, a flashlight and a portable radio. Wait for help. If your car stalls in a flooded area, abandon it as soon as possible.

  • Swimming or playing in or near floodwater is life threatening. Drainage ditches and canals carry fast moving floodwater and are extremely dangerous. Explain this to your children! Do not attempt to walk through floodwater that is more than knee deep.

Flood Preparedness Topics

  • Floodplain Development Permit Requirements: The majority of St. Charles Parish is located in a floodplain. All developments, regardless of the location, require a permit. Contact is required with the St. Charles Parish Office Planning and Zoning to obtain necessary permits at (985) 783-5060 for any of the instances mentioned above. Additionally, if any citizen observes an illegal development in the floodplain, it should be reported immediately to the Floodplain Manager in the St. Charles Parish Office of Planning and Zoning at (985) 783-5060.

  • Substantial Improvement/Damage Requirements: The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as current St. Charles Parish ordinances, require that when the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or other improvements to a building equals or exceeds 50 percent of the fair market value, then the building must meet the same construction requirements as a new building. Substantially damaged buildings must also be brought up to the same standards. A residence or building damaged so that the cost of repairs equals or exceeds 50 percent of the structure’s fair market value must also be elevated above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) in flood zones where BFEs exist. Questions regarding this subject may be directed to the St. Charles Parish Department of Planning and Zoning at (985) 783-5060.

  • Flood Warning System: St. Charles Parish operates a flood warning system to alert citizens of the parish regarding the possibility of impending flooding caused by hurricanes, tropical storms and heavy rains resulting from prolonged thunderstorms, tornadoes, winter storms, high winds or a combination thereof. A warning period will be available for most emergency situations, although the amount of lead time may vary from hazard to hazard. Proper use of this warning period will save lives, reduce injuries and protect property. These warnings are routinely disseminated through the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Upon notification, three short dual tones over TV and radio stations, citizens should tune to SCP-TV or in the event of the lack of TV, WWL Radio 870 AM or 101.9 FM for initial warning information and subsequent updates.

  • Natural and Beneficial Functions: A large portion of St. Charles Parish is at or below sea level. While there are some areas that are above this level, the entire parish is prone to the possibility of flooding caused by a variety of circumstances as enumerated above. This condition is primarily attributed to the fact that we are surrounded by rivers, lakes, bayous and canals, which necessitate our protection through a series of levee systems. We therefore must use drainage canals and pumping stations to ensure that stormwater is removed as quickly as possible into the surrounding waterways outside the levee system to help mitigate the possibility of flooding. Subsequently, citizens who observe any illegal activities with regard to our canal systems should immediately report these instances to the St. Charles Parish Department of Public Works at (985) 783-5102. The importance of protecting our flood prevention resources cannot be overstated.

  • FEMA Elevation Certificates: These certificates are necessary to determine Base Flood Elevation (BFE) when building a structure, commercial and residential or mitigation of a structure which has been repetitively flooded or substantially damaged. A licensed surveyor is the only entity that can provide this service at a specified cost. Completed certificates are on file in the St. Charles Parish Department of Planning and Zoning for the above mentioned structures built after 1983. Copies of these certificates can be obtained by the respective structure owner by calling (985) 783-5060.

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