Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series.

While Phelps County does not have a building codes program that requires permits, “you may need a floodplain development permit if you are planning construction or substantial improvements to a structure located in a floodplain within Phelps County” or rehab work to homes that have been flooded, according to Phelps County Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp.

“Because Phelps County participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), we must have a process that certifies compliance with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and NFIP regulations,” Verkamp explained. “This doesn’t prevent you from building in a floodplain. However, you may need to follow certain design standards that would minimize damage in the event of a flood.”

The Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) administers the county’s floodplain management program.

“If you are planning to build any type of structure or improve existing structures, you need to determine if you are in a floodplain, and we can help you do that,” said Tammy Snodgrass, assistant director and environmental programs manager with MRPC.

“If your lending institution is requiring you to purchase flood insurance, that is a good indication that you may be in an area susceptible to flooding, and you most definitely need to contact us,” Snodgrass added. “The sooner you find out, the better.”

By using FEMA floodplain maps, MRPC helps property owners determine whether a floodplain development permit is needed. If a permit is needed, the property owner will need to fill out an application, and the administrator will provide detailed specifications that would need to be followed for construction in the floodplain.

“For example, the lowest floor of the planned project may need to be elevated or you may have to forego a basement because no basements are allowed in a floodplain,” Snodgrass said.

Once the administrator has provided the specification information, construction can begin. The administrator will then follow up by requiring an elevation certificate.

“That documents the elevation of the lowest floor of the structure and certifies compliance with federal regulations,” Snodgrass explained.

“Our goal is to allow you to build in a floodplain, if that is your desire, but to do so in such a way that If structures are out of compliance with NFIP, the entire county could lose its ability to participate in the flood insurance program,” Snodgrass said. “That would mean no one owning property in Phelps County would be able to purchase flood insurance.”

Verkamp encouraged residents to contact MRPC with any questions, especially residents who are planning summer building projects.

For more information on floodplain regulations inPhelps County, contact Snodgrass at MRPC at 573-265-2993 or email tsnodgrass@meramecregion.org.