How Do Wetlands and Floodplains Impact Church Construction?

Water may be essential to life, but it can be a pain to navigate when building a church.

Building on wetlands or floodplains and determining where (and how) to lay water and sewage lines can present plenty of hoops to jump through. While overlooking these technical details can be tempting when you’re excited about building a church, it will cost you down the road.

Here’s a basic overview of what you should know about wetlands, floodplains, and water lines when building a church:

What Should Church Building Committees Know about Wetlands?

What are wetlands?

Wetlands are land areas that are covered in water or have water near the soil’s surface. Think swamps, marshes, or bogs near rivers or lakes and tidal wetlands near the ocean.

While the country’s most notable wetlands are found in the southeast, like in Florida’s Everglades National Park and Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore—wetlands are found across the country and contain abundant plant life, endangered animals, and migratory birds.

Which laws protect wetlands?

Because wetlands are self-contained ecosystems, the federal government regulates them heavily through laws like the Clean Water Act of 1972. This law, enforced by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), controls dredging and filling activities in wetlands with a permitting system.

To complete a building project in a regulated wetland area, you must obtain legal permission from the USACE.

Can I build my church on wetlands?

The short answer is yes—but you might not want to. Building on a regulated wetland area requires a permit that takes time to acquire. Other options include building on land without wetlands or on isolated wetlands—wetlands that are outside the jurisdiction of the USACE.

If you want to build on a regulated wetland area, we recommend contacting an environmental consulting firm for advice and reading up on local wetland laws.

What Should Pastors Know about Floodplains and Flood Zones?

What is a floodplain?

A floodplain (or flood zone) is a flat stretch of land next to a river or stream. Though flood zones tend to attract a wide range of plant and animal life and offer a beautiful body of water to admire, as the name suggests, they’re prone to repeat flooding.

Floodplains are categorized by their likelihood of flooding within a given year. A property in a 100-year floodplain has a one-in-100 chance of flooding in a year. The one-percent chance is known as the “base flood.”

Can I build my church on a floodplain?

You can build a property in a 100-year floodplain. To build on a floodplain, you must apply for a permit and submit building plans that comply with state and county standards and all the federal floodplain regulations created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

An example of a floodplain regulation is that a building must be constructed above the base flood elevation. The low-elevation land must be filled in with dirt, and the building placed on top.

Do I need special insurance when building in a flood zone?

Flood insurance is required for businesses with federal loans in high-risk flood zones, which is an added expense of building a church on a floodplain. We recommend speaking with an insurance specialist for more details about flood insurance.

What Should Churches Know about Water and Sewage Lines?

How do water and sewage lines impact church construction?

Your church will need to lay water lines to bring fresh water into the church and sewage lines to dispose of waste. Before laying water and sewage lines, you’ll need to determine the appropriate pipe sizes, including length and depth, and the right materials to use, such as PVC, PEX, copper, or cast iron.

However, water and sewage line specifications are much more than preference. You’ll need to follow local building codes to ensure you don’t run into legal issues or system failures down the road. Consult a professional church builder, like Churches by Daniels, for further direction.

Rely on Churches by Daniels for Expert Guidance on Water Management During Church Construction

Whether you’re considering building in wetlands or on a floodplain and need help navigating the legal and insurance requirements, or you need guidance on easements, zoning requirements, or utilities to adhere to local building codes, our team would love to help.

In the meantime, learn more about selecting the perfect church building location from our experienced team at Churches by Daniels!