Colorado Revising Flood Plain Rules

October 26, 2010

The staff of the Colorado Water Conservation Board is backing off a suggested flood plain rule that could have further limited where new hospitals, police stations and other critical facilities could be built.

The board is updating rules adopted in 2005 to try to reduce flood losses. It plans a rule-making hearing Nov. 15.

Staff had been looking at keeping critical facilities out of the 500-year flood plain, or the area that would be damaged by a flood likely to occur once every 500 years. They now propose making that a suggestion to communities, not a requirement.

Under the proposed rules, the lowest floor of any new buildings would have to be at least one foot above the 100-year flood elevation, or two feet for critical facilities. A nonresidential building also could meet the requirement by being flood-proofed to that level.

The proposed rules discourage the use of levees for protecting property in most cases.

The proposals generally wouldn’t be retroactive, and communities could opt for stricter regulations.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources estimated in 2004 that more than 250,000 people live in Colorado’s flood plains. Homes, commercial buildings and other property in those areas were estimated to be worth at least $11 billion.

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