Possible Points: 350 points for the element.

Learn from the experiences of two communities that were successful in earning credit for this CRS element! Check out the Success Stories for Bellevue, WA and Collier County, FL.

Purpose of Element: The purpose of this element is to reward communities that have taken action to protect and/or restore open spaces within the floodplain to their natural condition. Specifically, credit is granted for communities that have preserved open spaces in the floodplain that are either in their natural condition (meaning they have never been built on, graded, filled, or otherwise developed) or have restored and preserved areas that were previously developed to their pre-development conditions.

There are 4 sub-elements associated with this element; each is intended to reward communities for engaging in specific behaviors that are associated with the protection and restoration of the natural and beneficial functions of floodplains. Simply documenting that there are pristine areas in a community's floodplain that are being protected or restored can earn communities up to 190 points.

In order to earn additional points, several additional actions must be taken including:

  1. Identifying NFOS areas (generally) in the community's Natural Floodplain Functions Protection Plan,
  2. Having parcels that are designated as critical habitat for threatened or endangered species, and
  3. Having parcels within a designated open space corridor a term which the CRS defines as "property [that] has been identified for its corridor or network value in an approved plan" or connected network of "wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitats, wilderness, and other areas that support native species, maintain natural ecological processes, and sustain air and water resources." One example of a plan that a community could receive credit for is Boulder, Colorado's Greenways Master Plan.

For more detailed descriptions of the requirements of this element and its sub-elements see pages 420-14 - 420-18 of the CRS Coordinator’s Manual.

Impact Adjustment: Yes. Credit for each sub-element is calculated by taking the ratio of area that qualifies for each sub-element to the total area of the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). As a result, each sub-element that a community is receiving credit for may have a different impact adjustment ratio. One critical factor to note is that no impact adjustment ratio for any sub-element may exceed the impact adjustment ratio calculated for element 422.a. Open Space Preservation (OSP). For more information see page 420-17 of the CRS Coordinator's Manual.

Potential to Double Count Credit: Yes. Areas that qualify for NFOS credit by definition also qualify for OSP credit, and may also qualify for credit under other sub-elements for activity 420. These include element 422.b. Deed Restrictions, 422.d. Special Flood-Related Hazards Open Space, 422.e. Coastal Erosion Open Space, and 422.h. Natural Shoreline Protection.

Degree of Difficulty - Documentation: Medium. To earn credit for this element, communities must have a qualified professional document the natural and beneficial floodplain functions provided by each property that NFOS credit is being claimed for and map these areas. While many communities have areas that qualify for NFOS credit preserved already, filling out and organizing the required paperwork in order to document the credit could be time intensive, especially for communities that cover a large geographic area. This could require the community to hire additional personnel to assist with initial site assessments if the community does not have an individual with the appropriate qualifications on staff already. That said, once a community has properly documented all of the areas that qualify for NFOS credit, this documentation can be reused for future verification visits as long as a mapping change has not occurred.

Degree of Difficulty - Implementation: Medium. Communities that are seeking to earn additional credit for this CRS element do not necessarily need to acquire additional land. Rather, an existing park could be restored to its pre-development condition. That said, restoration initiatives can be both time consuming and expensive to implement. This could be a potential barrier to implementation for some communities.

Mercer Creek is surrounded by natural riparian habitat. Image courtesy of John Tiscorina (2016), Bellevue, Washington.
Mercer Creek is surrounded by natural riparian habitat. Image courtesy of John Tiscorina (2016), Bellevue, Washington.

Tips for Success:

  1. Reports or management plans (ex: habitat conservation plans, green infrastructure plans, etc.) that apply to a property that a community is seeking NFOS credit serve as documentation of its natural and beneficial functions. Communities should leverage existing plans and reports whenever possible to reduce the effort associated with assembling the required documentation for this element.
  2. Take credit for privately held lands, nature preserves, and state and county parks that are within your community's jurisdiction. Communities do not need to own the land in order to receive CRS credit for the natural and beneficial functions that it provides.

Co-Benefits Associated with this Element:  In general, floodplains have many natural and beneficial functions including but not limited to: helping to attenuate flooding, reducing the velocity of flood flows, reducing the amount of sediment and nutrients entering a water body, promoting groundwater recharge, enhancing biodiversity, and providing habitat for waterfowl, as well as threatened and endangered species (Wright, 2007; Task Force on the Natural and Beneficial Functions of Floodplains, 2002). Floodplains are also functional natural areas that people can visit in order to reconnect with nature and enhance their physical and mental health (Kondo et al., 2015).