Levee System Construction and Restoration Projects

Main Content

Flood Protection Restoration (Zone AR) Requirements

Introduction

Flood zone map in progressLevee status assessmentLevee bordering agricultural land

The flood protection restoration (Zone AR) determination process can be used when a Federal flood protection system, such as a levee system, no longer provides a 1-percent-annual-chance level of flood protection. This designation indicates that the increased flood hazard and associated risk is considered temporary and recognizes that a levee system is being restored to provide the 1-percent-annual-chance level of flood protection, thereby reducing the flood risk to people and structures in the levee-impacted areas.

The Zone AR determination process may result in reductions in the flood insurance premium costs and in the elevation requirements for new construction and substantial improvements to existing structures. The process also helps eligible communities establish a plan for restoring flood protection with the assurance that the restoration project, if constructed as proposed, will result in the eventual removal of the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) designation from the levee-impacted areas.

Eligibility Requirements

A community may be eligible to apply for the Zone AR designation if the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) determines that the community is engaged in the process of restoring a flood protection system that was:

  • Constructed using Federal funds;
  • Recognized as providing 1-percent-annual-chance flood protection on the effective Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM); and
  • Decertified by a Federal agency responsible for flood protection design or construction.

Application and Submittal Requirements

To apply for the Zone AR designation, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the community or another community official designated by the CEO must submit a formal written request to the Administrator of the FEMA Regional Office that serves the community along with the supporting data and documentation outlined in Section 65.14 of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) regulations, and any additional information requested by FEMA, if necessary. FEMA will not initiate any action to designate flood protection restoration zones without receiving a formal written request from the community that complies with all requirements of Section 65.14.

Limitations and Completion Requirements

A community may have a Zone AR designation only once during the restoration of a particular levee system. This limitation does not preclude future Zone AR designations should a fully restored, certified, and accredited levee system become decertified for a second or subsequent time.

A community that receives Federal funds for the purpose of designing, or constructing, or designing and constructing the restoration project must complete the restoration or meet the adequate progress requirements of Section 61.12 of the NFIP regulations within a specified period. The completion date for federally funded projects is not to exceed a maximum of 10 years from the date of submittal of the community's application for the Zone AR designation.

A community that does not receive Federal funds for the purpose of designing or constructing the project must also complete the restoration within a specified period, not to exceed a maximum of 5 years from the date of submittal of the community's application for the Zone AR designation. Because no Federal funds are involved, the project would not be eligible for a Zone A99 designation under the provisions of Section 61.12 of the NFIP regulations. The designated restoration period may not be extended beyond the maximum allowable under this limitation.

Exclusions

The provisions of Section 65.14(e) of the NFIP regulations do not apply to a levee system in a coastal high hazard area as defined in Section 59.1 of the NFIP regulations. This exclusion includes areas that would be subject to coastal high hazards as a result of the decertification of a previously certified levee system that had been accredited and shown on the effective FIRM for a community as providing 1-percent-annual-chance flood protection.

FEMA Review and Response

FEMA will review all data and documentation submitted in support of the community's application for the Zone AR designation. Upon completing this review, FEMA will respond, in writing, to the CEO of the community, in accordance with the procedures specified in Section 65.9 of the NFIP regulations.

If FEMA issues a flood protection restoration determination, they will prepare new or revised FIRM panels that designate the temporary flood hazard areas that are impacted by the levee system as Zone AR. Existing SFHAs shown on the effective FIRM panel(s) for the areas that are further inundated by Zone AR flooding will be designated as one of the following flood insurance risk zones:

  • Zone AR/AE, with Zone AR Base (1%-annual-chance) Flood Elevations (BFEs) and Zone AE BFEs
  • Zone AR/AH, with Zone AR BFEs and Zone AH BFEs
  • Zone AR/AO, with Zone AR BFEs and Zone AO with base flood depths
  • Zone AR/A, with Zone AR BFEs and Zone A without BFEs.

Zones AR/AE, AR/AH, AR/AO, and AR/A are referred to collectively as dual flood zones.

Requirements for Maintaining Zone AR Designation

To maintain the Zone AR designation, the following requirements must be met:

  • The community and any cost-sharing Federal agency must certify annually to the FEMA Regional Office that serves the affected community/communities that the restoration will be completed in accordance with the restoration plan within the time period specified by the plan.
     
  • The community and Federal agency must update the restoration plan and must identify any permitting or construction problems that will delay the project completion.

The FEMA Regional Office that serves the affected community/communities will make an annual assessment and recommendation to the FEMA Administrator as to the viability of the restoration plan and will conduct periodic onsite inspections of the restoration project.

Flood Insurance Requirements

The following flood insurance requirements apply in areas designated Zone AR on an effective FIRM:

  • The mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements of the NFIP apply; however, the flood insurance premium rates for Zone AR are significantly lower than the premium rates for other SFHAs.
     
  • The NFIP grandfathering rules apply to structures in Zone AR and dual flood zones, which is important after the restoration project is complete.
     
  • If a property owner purchases a policy, maintains continuous coverage, and is later determined to be in an SFHA after the restoration project is complete, the original flood insurance premium rate would apply.

The effective date for any flood insurance risk premium rates established for Zone AR is the effective date of the new or revised FIRM showing the Zone AR designations.

Floodplain Management and Building Requirements

The floodplain management and building requirements below apply when FEMA has issued a Letter of Final Determination for a new or revised FIRM and has identified flood protection restoration areas by designating the areas as Zones AR or as dual flood zones (i.e., AR/A1-30, AR/AE, AR/AH, AR/AO, or AR/A) on the FIRM. These requirements also apply in areas designated Zone AR on an effective FIRM. These floodplain management and building requirements are in accordance with Paragraph 60.3(f) of the NFIP regulations.

  • The community must adopt an official map or legal description of those areas within Zone AR and dual flood zones that are designated as "developed areas," as defined in Section 59.1 of the NFIP regulations.
     
  • For all new construction of structures in areas within Zone AR, the community must determine the applicable Zone AR BFE and use that BFE to apply the requirements of Subparagraphs 60.3(c)(1) through (14) of the NFIP regulations.
    • For areas that are designated as developed areas, the community must use the elevation that is 3 feet above the highest adjacent grade (or the Zone AR BFE, if that is lower).
    • For areas outside of the developed areas where the Zone AR flood depth is 5 feet or less, the community must use the elevation that is 3 feet above the highest adjacent grade (or the Zone AR BFE, if that is lower).
    • For areas outside of the developed areas where the Zone AR flood depth is more than 5 feet, the community must use the Zone AR BFE.
    • For dual flood zones, the community must use the higher of the applicable Zone AR BFE or the BFE or base flood depth for the underlying Zone A1-30, AE, AH, AO, or A.
  • For all substantial improvements to existing construction within dual flood zones, the community shall use the BFE or base flood depth for the underlying Zone A1-30, AE, AH, AO, or A to apply the requirements of Subparagraphs 60.3(c)(1) through (14).
     
  • The community must notify the permit applicant that the area has been designated as Zone AR, Zone AR/A1-30, Zone AR/AE, Zone AR/AH, Zone AR/AO, or Zone AR/A and whether the structure will be elevated or protected to or above the Zone AR BFE.

Requirements for Removing Zone AR Designation

Once a levee system restoration or construction project has made adequate progress, as defined in Section 61.12 of the NFIP regulations, the CEO of the community or another community official designated by the CEO may submit written evidence that the criteria of Section 61.12 have been met and request that FEMA make an adequate progress determination and revise the FIRM to show a Zone A99 designation for the levee-impacted area. Additional information on the data, documentation, and mapping requirements for Zone A99 designations is provided on the Adequate Progress (Zone A99) Requirements page.

The Zone AR designation also may be removed when the levee system restoration project has been completed. The requirements are as follows:

  • If a community receives Federal funds for the project, that community must provide written evidence of certification from a Federal agency having flood protection design or construction responsibility that the necessary improvements have been completed and that the system has been restored to provide a 1-percent-annual-chance level of flood protection.
     
  • If a community does not receive Federal funds for the project, that community must provide written evidence that the restored levee system meets the requirements of Section 65.10 of the NFIP regulations.

Upon receipt of the required data and documentation, FEMA will revise the affected FIRM panel(s) and related products to reflect the impact of the completed project on flood risks in the levee-impacted area.

FEMA also has procedures for removing the Zone AR designation due to non-compliance with the restoration schedule or as a result of a finding that satisfactory progress is not being made to complete the restoration. These procedures and the resulting action that will be taken by FEMA are documented in Paragraph 65.14(i) of the NFIP regulations.

Useful Resources

The levee system resources listed below provide more information on regulatory requirements, procedural requirements, and benefits of flood protection restoration zone and adequate progress determinations.

For More Information

For more information or additional assistance:

Last Updated: 
07/16/2012 - 11:25