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Watts Branch Neighborhoods Flood Risk Management

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DOEE is working with sister agencies to better understand flood risk in the Watts Branch area. Many homes in the Watts Branch neighborhood are in a FEMA designated floodplain called the Special Flood Hazard Area. In this area, also known as the 100-year floodplain, there is a 1% chance of being flooded every year. It is a high-risk flood zone, where federal and local insurance and building requirements are enforced to protect people and buildings.

This webpage serves as an overview of new flood risk data for Watts Branch Neighborhoods in Ward 7 and the set of strategies DOEE is putting forth to protect lives and property in the Watts Branch Area.

Watts Branch Flood Risk Management Plan

From 2017-2021, DOEE collaborated with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DC Silver Jackets to investigate existing and future flood risk in Watts Branch. The resulting report evaluated how changes in the frequency and intensity of rainfall would change flood risk in the future and provided individual and watershed-wide strategies and recommendations to reduce future flood damages.

The report identifies potential structural (I.e. floodwalls, levees, pump stations, stormwater management infrastructure, etc.) and nonstructural (I.e. home elevation, commercial building floodproofing, flood warning systems, etc.) flood risk management measures and investigates potential funding sources for project implementation. The analysis is intended to empower community leaders to make more informed decisions regarding the best ways to mitigate flood hazards in the Watts Branch neighborhood. DOEE, HSEMA, and the DC Silver Jackets will continue to work with the community and its leaders to identify the best solutions, apply for grants, and work towards the construction of infrastructure that will reduce flood risk in these neighborhoods.

Upcoming Outreach in Watts Branch

The completed Watts Branch Flood Risk Management Study will also serve as the starting point for a series of DOEE-led outreach activities in the near future. These include:

  • Flood Risk Awareness Week [June 21-25, 2021]: DOEE (in conjunction with HSEMA, DISB, and the DC Silver Jackets) is organizing a Flood Awareness Week to raise public knowledge of flood risk in the District, encourage the public to take actions to reduce their flood risk, and provide information on available preparedness resources. This flood week programming is similar to what other state-level jurisdictions organize. Flood Awareness Week will present five days of flood-related topics, with messages that fit the needs of DC residents to create a cohesive program that has a major impact on citizens. Messaging formats include social media, online presentations, and WMATA advertising. For more information, please visit ready.dc.gov/floodweek.
  • Proposed Updated Flood Hazard Rules Outreach [Summer 2021]: The District is updating its Flood Hazard Rules, which in conjunction with the DC Construction Codes, regulate all new construction or substantial improvement of buildings and structures in the floodplain. The proposed changes, including an expansion of the regulated area to include the 500-year floodplain, and the requirement for owners to maintain flood insurance, are intended to address the increasing flood risk posed by climate change. This summer, DOEE plans to organize a series of online workshops at which community stakeholders can learn about the proposed changes and provide comment on key provisions.
  • Flood Risk Awareness Mailers [Summer 2021]: This summer, residents who live in a floodplain will receive letters informing them about their flood risk, the importance of flood insurance, and materials on how to prepare if a flood should occur.
  • Flood Risk Management E-Learning Modules [Fall 2021]: DOEE is currently developing a series of online seminars regarding flood risk in the Watts Branch neighborhood. Key topics include flood preparedness, infrastructure improvements that could reduce flood risk, and the potential for “blue-green infrastructure” such as floodable parks, porous pavement, and curbside raingardens to mitigate flooding. Once completed, DOEE plans to share these online modules with the community and engage in further discussion about flood risk and how to reduce it in the community.
  • Watts Branch Letter of Map Revision (LOMR) Outreach [2021]: DOEE is beginning the process to officially update the FEMA maps for the Watts Branch. DOEE anticipates that, as a result of updated mapping from the study described above, that there will be fewer homes in the newly mapped floodplain than in the existing floodplain. Outreach will involve public notices and/or mailings to property owners to communicate the scope of any changes and to provide information on more affordable flood insurance options that may result from the changes.

Program Contact

For more information regarding flood mitigation efforts in Watts Branch, please contact [email protected].

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