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Why floodplains are beneficial

Floodplains are where land and water meet. The two environments merge to provide a unique and rich habitat for a wide variety of plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. 

Food and shelter for animals
Undisturbed floodplains often contain wetlands and marshy areas. Scientists describe wetlands as "nature's food pantry." Natural floodplains provide feeding and breeding grounds for many types of fish and wildlife, including migrating birds and waterfowl. 70% of North Carolina animals listed as endangered or threatened depend on wetlands for survival. 

Temporary storage for floodwater
Floodplains are nature's own disaster control. The areas along creeks and rivers is designed to hold floodwater that spills over the banks. A one-acre floodplain can store 1.5 million gallons of floodwater.

Pollution removal
Wetland store excess floodwater and let it slowly drain back into the creeks or into the groundwater. In the process, the wetlands filter out pollutants like sediment, excess nutrients and some harmful chemicals.

Floodplain of Little Sugar Creek near skyline 
Restored urban floodplains
have many benefits

Escape from the rat race
In urban areas like Charlotte-Mecklenburg, floodplains are well-suited for greenway trails for recreation and enjoying nature.

Floodplains are meant to flood
Floodplains are not a good place for homes or businesses. Where possible, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services works to restore floodplains to a natural state. Natural, open floodplains can reduce flood damage to surrounding property. And restored floodplains protect the environment.



Creek lined with rocks 

Floodplain Benefits Now 

How we managed floodplains before 1990:

  • Removed trees and other vegetation
  • Straightened stream paths
  • Lined stream banks with rock (rip rap)
  • Focused only on flood control



How we manage floodplains now: 

  • Preserve/replace vegetation
  • Restore natural meanders of streams
  • Only use rip rap at edge of stream
  • Acquire floodplain property through a voluntary buy-out program that leverages grant money to remove structures at highest risk of repeated flood damage 
  • Focus on reducing flood losses, erosion control, filtering out pollutants, and providing habitat for aquatic life and wildlife
  • Enforce regulations that limit or ban new construction and other development in mapped floodplains 

Watch a video about vegetated stream buffers. This video specifically refers to Charlotte. Procedures used by the six Towns and Mecklenburg County are similar but may not be identical to the City's.

For more information on the benefits of floodplains, contact Marc Recktenwald, Water Quality Program Manager, mrecktenwald@charlottenc.gov 704-336-3122 or Environmental Supervisor Richard Farmer at 980-314-3215.