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Energy and Environment Cabinet

Division of Water

Division of Water
Map Modernization

Flood Maps 

Flood maps, or Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs), have a wide range of users. Private citizens, insurance agents, engineers, surveyors and brokers use flood maps to locate properties and buildings and identify their risk to flood damage. Community officials use the products to administer floodplain management regulations and mitigate flood damage. Lending institutions and federal agencies use the products to locate properties and buildings to determine whether flood insurance is required when making loans or providing grants for the purchase or construction of buildings. 

The flood maps for your community should be available for review at your local community map repository site. Typically, this is your county courthouse, city hall, local planning, zoning or engineering office. If you would like copies of flood maps, they may also be obtained from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Map Service Center

Flood maps provide valuable information about flood hazards, including the following:

  • Physical features, such as major highways, secondary roads, lakes, railroads, streams and other waterways.
  • Floodplain areas (special flood hazard areas).
  • Base (1 percent annual chance) flood elevations or depths.
  • Flood insurance risk zones.
  • Areas subject to inundation by the 0.2 percent annual chance flood.
  • Areas designated as regulatory floodways.

Check with your local and state government officials for regulatory requirements when planning any development projects in floodplain areas. For more information about stream construction permits, visit the Kentucky Division of Water Floodplain Construction Web site

Flood maps designate zones where flooding is likely to occur. 

  • Zone AE – areas that will be inundated by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood where base flood elevations (1-percent-annual-chance flood elevations) have been determined. These zones are generally found on major flooding sources and in areas with high development potential.
  • Zone A – areas that will be inundated by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood where no base flood elevations (1-percent-annual-chance flood elevations) have been determined.
  • Zone X (0.2-percent-annual-chance floodplain) – areas that will be inundated by the 0.2-percent-annual-chance (500-year) flood. These areas are only associated with Zone AE.  While not a regulatory standard, large floods often occur and require the designation of the 0.2-percent-annual-chance floodplain.
  • Zone X – areas outside the 1-percent- and 0.2-percent-annual-chance floodplain.

Keep in mind that approximately 30 percent of all flood insurance claims come from Zone X areas. Even though you may not be in a designated floodplain, there is a chance that flooding may occur in your area. 

Flood Map Modernization

The goal of FEMA's Map Modernization Plan is to upgrade flood maps nationwide by:

  • Developing current flood hazard data for all flood prone areas nationwide to support sound floodplain management and prudent flood insurance decisions.
  • Providing the maps and data in digital format to improve the efficiency and precision with which mapping-program customers can use this information.
  • Fully integrating FEMA's community and state partners into the mapping process to build on local knowledge and efforts.
  • Improving processes to make it faster to create and update the maps.
  • Improving customer services to speed processing of flood map orders and raise public awareness of flood hazards.

FEMA has created a strategy called the Multi-Year Flood Hazard Identification Plan (MHIP) that details FEMA's five-year plan for providing updated digital flood hazard data and maps for areas with flood risk.

FEMA maintains useful information about flood maps and the map modernization initiative on its Web site:

Flood Map Modernization in Kentucky

Kentucky is in the process of updating flood maps statewide with the goal of identifying flood hazards for areas that drain more than 1 square mile (640 acres). It is important to remember that every stream, large or small, has a floodplain and that any downstream structure may be damaged during flooding.

The new aerial-photo-base maps will show areas that are likely to be flooded during a 1-percent-annual-chance flood. This means that areas shown on the map have a 1 percent chance of flooding in any given year. This floodplain has commonly been called the 100-year floodplain, although flooding may occur more or less often.

To accomplish map modernization, DOW has formed partnerships with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Division of Geographic Information, Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, U.S. Geological Survey, Kentucky Council of Area Development Districts and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, DOW has procured the services of two independent mapping contractors, Fuller, Mossbarger, Scott and May Engineers and AMEC Earth and Environmental, to perform mapping activities.

The end product of these partnerships will be not only digital floodplain maps, but also information that can be used for homeland security, natural resource conservation, emergency management and transportation purposes in order to promote economic development and maximize mitigation efforts.