More Arlington properties could be impacted by 100- and 500-year floods, according to new federal flood insurance rate maps.
The county estimates some 300 buildings, up from 172, now risk a 1% annual chance of being inundated by floods expected to happen once a century. Another 1,150 parcels, up from 1,054, face a 0.2% annual chance of floods that come around every half-millennia.
It identified the probable increase after comparing existing and new floodplain boundaries drawn by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In 2020, FEMA proposed new floodplain boundaries and approved them this May, giving Arlington six months to adopt the changes or get booted from its program providing flood insurance to residents, according to a county report.
FEMA also declared emergency services, healthcare facilities and government records storage could no longer be located within 500-year floodplain boundaries, while accessory structures within 100-year floodplain boundaries have to be smaller than 600 square feet and only used for vehicle parking and storage.
Lastly, it created the option, which Arlington is taking, to require greater flood-proofing for the lowest level of structures in 100-year floodplains, also called high-hazard flooding areas. Building to these specifications helps property owners lower their flood insurance premiums, according to the county.
The impacts are “unavoidable,” per the report. The changes are slated to be adopted next month after a public hearing, which the Arlington County Board authorized over the weekend. The new maps, restrictions and building requirements go into effect Nov. 16.
Despite the increases it documented, the county emphasizes the number of affected properties is low.
Only 25% of buildings in a 500-year floodplain, or 150, are non-residential and stand to be potentially impacted by the use restrictions on emergency services, healthcare facilities and government records storage. Some 714 parcels are expected to be impacted by the restrictions on accessory structures.
The report attributes the few affected properties to a longstanding county policy to buy land in floodplains to “discourage unwise development.” Arlington prohibits construction within 15 feet of 100-year floodplain boundaries. FEMA also calls these zones special flood hazard areas and requires owners of property within them to get flood insurance.
“Overall, most parcels and structures within the County are actually not impacted by these new floodplain maps,” Stormwater Communications Manager Aileen Winquist told ARLnow. “Due to Arlington’s extremely forward thinking past policies, many flood prone properties were acquired for parkland.”
The county’s first stormwater plan, from 1957, recommended local government buy land within floodplains.
“Implementation of this recommendation was ahead of its time, and as a result, relatively few properties in Arlington are in the 100-year floodplain,” the county report says. “Instead of large-scale development in the floodplain, Arlington County has an extensive network of stream valley parks as a result of acquisition of stream valleys by the County.”
Crediting these that policy and the prohibition on new building close to flood zones, Arlington County says today, only 300 insurable structures now fall in FEMA’s new high-risk 100-year floodplain areas, comprising 0.6% of all structures in Arlington. Another 150 buildings are within 15 feet of the same boundaries.
The county contrasts itself with other jurisdictions that have relied more on flood-control infrastructure, such as levees, and disaster relief for flood victims.
“This approach did not reduce losses… and this strategy did not discourage unwise or risky development,” the report said. “In fact, it may have actually encouraged additional development in areas of high risk.”
While “unavoidable,” FEMA’s boundary changes are not without local pushback.
They generated a wave of concern from some residents about special flood hazard area boundaries and estimated flood levels for three county streams: Lubber Run, Gulf Branch and Four Mile Run.
The county appealed the boundaries for all three but FEMA only agreed to review Four Mile Run.
“Both Arlington County and City of Alexandria had insisted that Four Mile Run be restudied, and FEMA finally did agree to do so,” the report says.
For Lubber Run and Gulf Branch, staff are now going through a different boundary revision process based on additional engineering studies.
Photo via Arlington County
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
There’s no official word on its website, but it looks like Bar Ivy in Clarendon may have closed permanently.
There’s persistence, and then there is Audrey Clement and her decade-plus effort to get elected to local office in Arlington. Clement talked with ARLnow editor Scott Brodbeck to talk about…
Makers Union, an upscale gastropub, is set to open its doors in Pentagon City next week, says Alex Brown, the restaurant’s director of operations. This opening marks the third Makers Union location in the D.C. Metropolitan area, following the debut of its Reston location three years ago and a recent opening at the Wharf in early October.
Children’s Weekday Program (CWP) is a non-profit preschool rooted in a play-based philosophy. We focus on developing a love of learning and exploration, cooperation, empathy, and independence.
Our caring and experienced educators create opportunities for children 16 months to 5 years old to play, learn, and grow in a nurturing environment of child-centered and developmentally appropriate experiences.
Initially established more than 50 years ago in South Arlington, CWP continues to be a lauded program in the Northern Virginia area. We are extremely proud to have been recognized as a Best Preschool in Northern Virginia Magazine for the last 4 years.
Located now in North Arlington at 2666 Military Road, CWP offers a part-time parents day out and preschool program with options to extend care both before and after school. We offer a supportive and inclusive school community for children and parents alike and welcome all families to join our school!
The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 77th annual Christmas tree sale!
This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 24th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to 10 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garland, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.
100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.
For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at https://optimistclubofarlingtonva.org/.
Holiday Art Show featuring artists: Peter Fitzgerald, Claire Plante, Alanna Rivera, and Suzy Scollon. At the Barcroft Community House, 800 South Buchanan St., Arlington, VA. Dec. 8 from, 2 PM to 8 PM and Dec. 9 from 10 AM to
2023 Christmas Tree Sales Begin
Saturday, December 2
Get your holiday decorating off to the right start this year! We will be selling 150 Fraser firs, freshly cut and delivered from Sparta, North Carolina.