Floodplain Management

Flooding happens when water bodies receive a greater volume of water than they can handle at one time. Floods are a natural part of the water cycle and can even be beneficial, however humans have affected the landscape drastically. By building on floodplains, draining wetlands, and controlling storm water, we have increased the likelihood of flooding and the extent of damage done by floodwaters such as erosion, loss of property, loss of frontage and loss of habitat.

Contact Information 

City Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Community Development Director – Certified Floodplain Manager
Address: City Hall, 700 Broad Street, St. Joseph, MI 49085
Phone: 269.983.1212
Fax: 269.985.0347

What is a Floodplain or Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and why is it important?

A river, stream, lake, or drain may on occasion overflow their banks and inundate adjacent land areas.  The land that is inundated by water is defined as a floodplain.  In Michigan and nationally, the term floodplain has come to be commonly understood as the land area having a 1% chance of being inundated by the overflow of water in any given year. (This was previously referenced as a 100-year flood with many believing it would happen once every 100 years, but this is not true; it could happen more or less often.)
Floodplain areas are important natural features because they give time for sediment to settle out of floodwaters, thereby keeping it out of water bodies.  Floodplains often support wildlife habitat and are frequently used by humans.
The Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is that portion of land subject to inundation by a flood and/or flood-related erosion hazards.

Who creates the floodplain maps and designates their locations?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for studying and updating floodplain maps throughout the country.  This information is found on the Federal Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM). Within the maps there are different designations based on the flood risk.

December 2020 Pending Map Changes through FEMA

On December 7, 2020 FEMA issued notice to the City of St. Joseph that the December 19, 2019 Preliminary copies of the revised Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) and the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) for Berrien County were available for the 90-day appeal process.
To allow for review of the maps staff has also created a cheat sheet with screen shots to find the information on the FEMA maps.  In addition, city staff have used the FEMA website to create the following maps which show the proposed changes to the Flood Insurance Rate Map in the residential neighborhoods adjacent to beaches.   (These are not the only affected areas in the City, see the preliminary maps for full information.):
According to information from FEMA, they will review scientific or technical data received during the 90-day review period.  FEMA published the public hearing notice on December 12th and 19th. 2020, in the Herald Palladium newspaper.  The 90 days starts with the December 19thadvertisement.  Those wishing to submit scientific or technical data must forward copies of the reports/studies:
City of St. Joseph 
Attn: Kristen Gundersen
700 Broad Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085
All information must be received no later than March 5, 2021.  This will allow staff time to review and compile the information before forwarding the documents to FEMA before the 90-day deadline as required.

Where are the Floodplain or Special Flood Hazard Areas in the City of St. Joseph?

The floodplain or special flood hazard area in the City of St. Joseph are found along Lake Michigan, the St. Joseph River, Paw Paw River, and ravines.  It is believed that in 2021 FEMA will be adopting new FIRMs that include Lake Michigan beach areas.  In addition, a separate effort to re-map the St. Joseph River is underway.
What is the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)?
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a Federal program enabling property owners in "participating communities" to purchase insurance protection against losses from flooding. The insurance is designed to provide an insurance alternative to disaster assistance to meet the escalating costs of repairing damage to building and their contents caused by flood.
The first Flood Insurance Study (FIS) was created in 1976 and the City’s first FIRM was published in 1978.  These documents were replaced by a new FIS and FIRMSs in 2006.  The City of St. Joseph is a “participating community” in the National Flood Insurance Program.  

Why does flooding occur?

With increasing development in the floodplain, open spaces, and wetlands, our land has lost the ability to soak up rain.  Areas that were once effective at storing excess flows are now being replaced by buildings and pavement that have made the land increasingly impervious.  As a result, floods have become far larger and more frequent.
On occasion flooding takes place along the St. Joseph River due to ice jams or ice dams occurring when chunks of ice clump together and block the flow of the river.  Ice jams are caused by melting snow and ice in the springtime.  







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