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FLOODPLAIN

Floodplain

What is the Floodplain Overlay?

The City of Pittsburgh participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federal program though the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Through the NFIP, the City agrees to manage development in the floodway and floodplain, which is any land area susceptible to being inundated by floodwaters.

Both the City and residents benefit from this participation. The primary benefit for residents is the ability to purchase flood insurance, which most homeowner and renter insurance policies do not cover. To maintain these benefits, the City must adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that meet state and federal standards.

Where are the Floodplain Regualations?

The NFIP requires municipalities participating in the program to adopt floodplain regulations that meet state and federal standards. In Pittsburgh, these regulations are located in the Zoning Code, in Section 906.02 "Flood Plain Overlay District" of the Municipal Code.

How do I determine is my property is in the Floodplain or Floodway?

Both FEMA and the City of Pittsburgh have maps online and houses may be searched by address.

FEMA’s map is available here.

  • For a faster search, unclick the box marked “1% Annual Chance Depth of Flooding”.
  • Please note that areas marked as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” are also subject to the regulations of the Flood Plain Overlay update.

Pittsburgh's map is located here.

  • To use the Pittsburgh map, click on “layers” at the top of the map and turn on “Current - 1% Chance Annual Flood”.
  • It may be helpful to turn other layers off, the color is a light pink.
  • All of the properties located in the "Current - 1% Chance Annual Flood" are subject to the Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.

Frequently Used Terms

  • A Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) is created by the NFIP and generally shows a community’s base flood elevations, flood zones, and floodplain boundaries.
  • The Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is the land in the floodway and floodplain at high risk of flooding. These areas are indicated on FIRMs as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” and are subject to the regulations of the Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.
  • A floodplain is the land which is subject to flooding from an adjacent watercourse or any area subject to unusual or rapid accumulation of surface waters from any source.
  • A floodway consists of the actual waterway as well as any adjacent lands that must be reserved in order to alleviate the 1% annual flood without increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot.
  • Base flood elevation is the projected height of the water in the 1% chance annual flood.

My property is in the Floodplain or Floodway. What does that mean to me?

FEMA has determined that properties mapped as Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) have a 1 percent annual chance of flooding. These areas are marked as “A, AE, or AE Floodway” FEMA maps.

  • Please note that FEMA also maps the 2 percent annual chance of flooding, but this is not regulated by Pittsburgh Flood Plain Overlay.

For property owners in the existing and newly mapped SFHA areas, insurers may require flood insurance and different building and development standards will apply. No building or site changes will be required to existing development sites with valid certificates of occupancy, so long as no changes or alterations are made.

New Construction: What different building and development standards apply in the Floodplain?

All new construction in the floodplain will be required to be in full compliance with the current regulations. Generally, all new commercial construction will be required to be flood proofed or elevated 18” above the base flood elevation. Generally, all residential construction will be required to be elevated 18" above the base flood elevation.

Existing Development:  What different building and development standards apply in the Floodplain?

Improvements are permitted to existing structures. For work that costs less than 50 percent of the value of the structure, no additional requirements are triggered.

Work that costs more than 50 percent of the value of the structure is termed a substantial improvement and the structure must come into compliance with the ordinance.

Why do I need to Complete the Floodplain Application?

As part of the NFIP Program and to maintain benefits for residents, Pittsburgh is required to document the review process for all  land development in the floodplain and floodway. This includes items like paving and outdoor storage that  previously may not have needed a permit from the Zoning Division or the Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections.

Completing the application is necessary for the City to meet this NFIP requirement.

What is Flood Insurance and do I need it?

Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood insurance is not a governmental requirement or regulation, but it may be required by your mortgage lender. If you live in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) or high-risk area and have a Federally backed mortgage, your insurer will require a policy. Renters may also purchase insurance.

My Property is not in the mapped Floodplain. Can I buy Flood Insurance?

Yes, anyone may purchase flood insurance, both renters and owners.

How do I obtain Flood Insurance?

To obtain flood insurance, please talk to your local insurance agent or visit  www.floodsmart.gov, which is the official website of the National Flood Insurance Program.

What if I feel my property is not in the Floodplain, even though it is mapped within one?

The City of Pittsburgh does not have the ability to remove properties from the FEMA floodplain maps. If you believe your property was incorrectly included in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), you may submit an application to FEMA for a formal determination of the property's location and/or elevation relative to the SFHA. 

To find this form, visit  www.fema.gov and search for “homeowners” or visit here for the letter guidelines.

For more Information

Please note that this page summarizes broad issues around the floodplain and floodway. Please consult the Zoning Code and Building Code, as necessary, for complete information on requirements.

  • For general information on floodplain management, please visit www.floodsmart.gov.
  • For specific questions, please contact Josh Lippert at joshua.lippert@pittsburghpa.gov or 412-255-2516.

Application Documents:

Other Important Documents: