Flood Permitting

To build, develop, or repair in a floodplain, both the Kentucky Division of Water (KDOW) and Louisville Metro require permits. Download the Kentucky and Louisville Metro floodplain permits here: 

Following are the steps the property owner needs to take regarding state and local permitting. 

STEP 1: Verify if the site is in a floodplain or special flood hazard area (SFHA)—a shaded A Zone area on the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM).

  • If the project site is obviously outside of the shaded A-Zone, then floodplain regulations do not apply. 
  • If the project site is in a shaded A-Zone or is a borderline question, proceed to Step 2.

STEP 2: Check to see if the project meets the definition of “development” of both the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) and the local ordinance.

As a general rule of thumb, anything which alters the natural topography of the floodplain needs permit review. “Development” includes:

  • Construction, reconstruction, or placement of a building 
  • Additions to existing buildings 
  • Renovation 
  • Remodeling 
  • Manufactured homes 
  • Travel trailers (RVs) 
  • Filling or regrading 
  • Excavation 
  • Construction or erection of levees, dams or walls 
  • Storage of materials in floodplain (including gas or liquid tanks) 
  • Any other activity that might change the direction, height, or velocity of floodwaters

Development does not include: maintenance of existing building and facilities, resurfacing roads, gardening, plowing, and similar agricultural practices that do not involve filling, grading, or construction of levees. 

STEP 3: Complete a Kentucky “Stream Construction Permit”/ Floodplain Permit Application 

A USGS map showing the site should be attached to the application form. Plans of the proposed development should also be attached showing existing and proposed conditions, including all appropriate dimensions and elevations. The application requires signature of the local floodplain manager. Additions and renovations to existing structures also require a cost estimate of the proposed work and a copy of the Property Valuation Administrator’s value of the structure or an appraisal of the structure, if available.

STEP 4: Does the project include a new building or substantial improvement/damage of an existing building? 

A "building" is a structure that is principally above ground and is enclosed by walls and a roof, including manufactured homes and prefabricated buildings. The term also includes recreational vehicles and travel trailers installed on a site for more than 180 days. 

Substantial improvement is defined as any combination of repairs, reconstruction, alteration, additions or improvements to existing development not related to damage taking place during a one-year rolling period in which the cumulative cost equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure, excluding periodic maintenance and upkeep (including without limitation, windows, doors and roofing) that does not increase the value of the structure. With regard to damage, Substantial Improvement shall mean any combination of repairs, reconstruction, rehabilitation or improvement to existing development taking place during a one-year rolling period in which the cumulative cost equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure. The cost of repairs, reconstruction, alteration, additions or improvements shall reflect the value in the marketplace of the labor and materials to be used. The first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor or other structural part of the structure constitutes beginning of construction of the substantial improvement whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure. The term does not include the cost of flood proofing or elevating a structure or any portion thereof to the freeboard elevation.

Substantial damage is defined as damage of any origin sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before damaged condition would equal or exceed 50% of the market value of the structure before the damage occurred, as determined by the administering agency and/or the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The market value of a structure is the appraised value of the structure determined by a certified general real property appraiser licensed and certified by the Kentucky Real Estate Appraisers Board or lacking that, the current assessment of the structure shown by the Property Valuation Administrator of Jefferson County, prior to the start of the addition, repair or improvement, or in the case of damage, prior to the damage's occurrence.

STEP 5: Once the state issues a "stream construction permit", a copy will be provided to the property owner, the local floodplain official, and the Division of Water Regional Office. There will be stipulations on the state permit, as well as the base flood elevation (BFE) to which the property owner must build the lowest floor. 

Local ordinances may be more stringent than state regulations and take precedence over the state permit. In this case, a freeboard requirement in the Louisville Metro Floodplain Management Ordinance takes precedence. 

STEP 6: Submit request for a local permit prior to starting construction from MSD. 

Submit a plan set, along with a Plan Review Application and an Application for Permit to Develop/Repair in a Floodplain to MSD's Development Team. Drop plans off at the front desk at MSD, 700 W. Liberty Street. This step can be done concurrently with the Kentucky Division of Water Floodplain Application; however, MSD cannot permit the project until Division of Water has approved the project.

Please note a $1,000 elevation certificate bond is required for new buildings and additions prior to floodplain permit issuance and will be returned once the final elevation certificate is approved by MSD.

STEP 7: After construction (Foundation only and Full Construction), submit a completed an Elevation Certificate (and Floodproofing Certificate, if applicable), signed by a professional engineer, architect or licensed surveyor.

Ensure the Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate is properly completed, including: 

  • Fully enclosed areas below the lowest floor have at least a minimum of two (2) openings, with a total net area of not less than 1 square inch per square foot enclosed area. The bottom of the openings should be no higher than 1 foot above the lowest grade. (See picture of vents and openings in the Elevation Certificate.) 
  • Materials used below the lowest finished floor are resistant to flood damage; 
  • Verification of proper elevation of heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), electrical, plumbing equipment, and utility meters; 
  • Waterproof all water and sewer pipes and electrical and telephone lines located below the base flood elevation. 

To obtain an Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate, visit MSD or go to FEMA’s website. You should also read FEMA’s Technical Bulletins.

STEP 8: Keep copies of all pertinent records of the following: 

  • State “Stream Construction Permit” for construction in or along a stream 
  • Local floodplain permit 
  • Location map and plans, if required 
  • Elevation or Floodproofing Certificate