Floodplain Permitting in Maryland

National Flood Insurance Program

The State of Maryland's Coordinating Office for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is in the Water and Science Administration of MDE.  In order to participate in the NFIP, local communities must adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance containing minimum requirements specified by federal law, which apply in floodplain areas mapped by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  In addition, the ordinance should reflect State laws and policies.  The Coordinating Office assists communities in adopting, interpreting, and properly enforcing their floodplain management ordinances under the Community Assistance Program, and facilitates the coordination of federal, State, and local programs.

All of Maryland’s counties, cities, and most towns participate in the NFIP.  The NFIP requires local jurisdictions to issue permits for all development in the 100-year floodplain, as depicted on maps issued by FEMA.  Development is broadly defined to include any man-made change to land, including grading, filling, clearing, dredging, extraction, storage, subdivision of land, and construction and improvement of structures and buildings.  For any development to take place, all necessary permits must be obtained, which may include federal and State permits, as well as the local permit.  For construction in wetlands and floodplains, a State permit​ from the Wetlands and Waterways Program, Water and Science Administration at MDE is required.   Questions regarding local permit requirements should be directed to the permit office of the local jurisdiction where the activity is to take place.

Maryland Model Floodplain Management Ordinance (FPMO)

The Maryland Model Floodplain Management Ordinance, developed through a coordinated effort with local communities, integrates NFIP and the State permit requirements.  After the devastation of Hurricane Isabel in 2003, additional provisions to enhance floodplain management have been recommended such as coastal communities must implement a minimum two foot freeboard (additional elevation requirement), all new and replaced HVAC units must be elevated, and all fuel storage tanks must be anchored or elevated.

Floodplain Compliance

To be properly permitted, proposed development may not increase flooding or create a dangerous situation during flooding, especially on another person’s property.  If a structure is involved, it must be constructed to minimize damage during flooding.  In order to document that a structure is compliant with floodplain management ordinance requirements and to properly rate it for flood insurance purposes, structures that are required to be elevated must have an elevation certificate on file.  This form must be completed by a surveyor, and attests to certain elevation and venting requirements.  To be compliant, an elevated building must be elevated to the Flood Protection Elevation (100-year flood elevation plus additional freeboard specified by the community) and have proper water equalizing venting.  All electrical and mechanical equipment, including ductwork and HVAC equipment, must also be elevated.  Fuel tanks must be elevated or anchored as specified in the brochure, Flooding and Fuel Tanks.  The final grade of the interior of the crawl space must be at or above final finished grade on the exterior on at least one side.  Certain buildings accessory to the primary structure (sheds, garages, pavilions, etc.) may not have to be elevated, provided that they do not exceed a certain size, and meet certain provisions, including being anchored, constructed of flood resistant materials, having all mechanical and electrical equipment elevated, and having the proper water equalizing vents.  These requirements should be verified with the local permit official when getting a permit for activity in a mapped 100-year floodplain.






Maryland Department of the Environment
Water and Science Administration
1800 Washington Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21230

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