STATEHOUSE – State Rep. Beau Baird (R-Greencastle), co-chair of Indiana’s Drainage Task Force, said he plans to craft legislation during the 2024 legislative session to help property owners who are being negatively impacted by Indiana’s overly strict and complex drainage laws, and how the state and locals handle floodplain matters.
The Drainage Task Force, which was charged with diving into the issues and recommending policy changes, recently wrapped up its final meeting. Baird said testimony mostly revolved around issues with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ floodplain maps, which were released in 2018 and went into effect in 2022.
Prior to the state maps being adopted, Baird said local floodplain administrators would make decisions regarding building permits after consulting the less restrictive Federal Emergency Management Agency’s floodplain maps. Once the state adopted DNR’s maps, Baird said some property owners were shocked as they were denied permits by local officials because they’re now located in a state-designated floodplain.
This concern spurred the state legislature to pass a law in 2023, sponsored by Baird, to allow Hoosiers applying for building permits the option to use the state’s maps or have their own survey done. The new law also allows a property owner to request DNR review the mapping data for their property at no cost.
Baird said FEMA is in the process of updating its federal maps and is looking to adopt the state’s mapping data in the future, but he believes the state should press pause on the new maps until concerns can be addressed.
“The discrepancies in the restrictive state floodplain maps must be identified and resolved,” Baird said. “We must take a step back so that we can ensure the data is accurate and property owners’ rights are protected. It’s also clear that we need a better notification process to alert Hoosiers of these changes, so that they know if they’re in a flood zone and, if so, they have an opportunity to appeal.”
While the task force did not reach a consensus on making legislative recommendations for the 2024 session, Baird said he supports several proposals including requiring the DNR to notify property owners if they are located on a state floodplain, and updating Indiana’s Drainage Handbook, which was written in 1996 and last updated in 1999.
Baird encourages Hoosiers to continue offering input on Indiana’s current land drainage laws and floodplain mapping by contacting his office at 317-234-9028 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Hoosiers can visit floodmaps.in.gov for more information and access the state’s floodplain mapping data.
The 2024 legislative session will begin in January and conclude in mid-March.