Extreme flood control criteria (Vp100)

The goal of extreme flood criteria is to maintain the boundaries of the pre-development 100-year floodplain, reduce risk to life and property from infrequent but very large floods and protect the physical integrity of a stormwater BMPs and downstream infrastructure.

The accepted design storm to manage extreme storms in most communities in Minnesota is the 100-year, 24-hour event. Designers are required to control the post-development 100-year, 24‑hour peak discharge rate to locally defined pre-development levels. Communities should carefully reassess extreme flood criteria since it requires the largest storage volume and greatest cost of any stormwater sizing criteria.

Communities may elect to waive 100-year peak discharge criteria in certain situations. The most common situation is when they have a buffer or floodplain ordinance that effectively excludes development from ultimate 100-year floodplain. Designers may also need to demonstrate that no downstream structures exist within the 100-year floodplain and that bridges and other infrastructure can safely pass the storm using an acceptable downstream analysis. This approach accomplishes the goal of extreme flood control by protecting the downstream ultimate 100-year floodplain rather than providing expensive upstream storage.

Hydrologists have often noted that extreme flood criteria may not always provide full downstream control from the out-of-bank events, due to differences in timing of individual peak discharges in the downstream portion of the watershed. Depending on the shape and land use of a watershed, it is possible that upstream peak discharge may arrive at the same time a downstream structure is releasing its peak discharge, thus increasing the total discharge. As a result of this “coincident peaks” problem, it is often necessary to evaluate conditions downstream from a site to ensure that effective out-of-bank control is being provided. Hydrologic and hydraulic models that can be used for analysis of downstream effects are provided in Appendix B.

Debo and Reese (1992) proposed the concept of the “10 percent rule” as the point to which a downstream analysis should extend. This is operationally defined as the downstream point where the development site represents 10 percent of the total contributing drainage area of a watershed. They contend that the hydrologic effects of flooding stabilize and remain constant further downstream. A typical downstream analysis will need a hydrologic investigation of the site area draining to a proposed detention facility and of the contributory watershed to the location of the 10 percent rule for the 10- and 100-year storms. As a minimum, the analysis should include the hydrologic and hydraulic effects of all culverts and/or obstructions within the downstream channel and assess whether an increase in water surface elevations will impact existing buildings or other structures. The analysis should compute flow rates and velocities for pre-developed conditions and proposed conditions both with and without the detention facility.

While the 10 percent rule is useful in establishing a limit for assessment, stormwater program managers still have some basic issues that need to be addressed. For example:

  • Is a downstream analysis always required?
  • Should a downstream analysis be required on a case-by-case basis?
  • Is a certain site size threshold required to trigger the analysis?
  • What should the analysis include (culverts, channel erosion, flooding, etc.)?
  • What data requirements are necessary for the analysis and what methods should be employed?

The following recommendations are provided to help answer these questions.

  • A downstream analysis is probably warranted for projects over 50 acres that posses more than 25 percent impervious cover or when deemed appropriate by the reviewing authority when existing conditions are already causing a problem (e.g., known drainage or flooding conditions documented in a regional plan or existing channel erosion is evident).
  • A typical downstream analysis will require a hydrologic investigation of the site area draining to a proposed detention facility and of the contributory watershed to the location of the 10 percent rule for the 10- and 100-year storms. A hydraulic analysis of the stream channel below the facility to the location of the 10 percent rule will also be necessary (a HEC-RAS water surface profile analysis, e.g.). Depending on the magnitude of the impact and the specific conditions of the analysis, additional information and data may be necessary such as collecting field run topography, establishing building elevations and culvert sizes or investigating specific drainage concerns or complaints.
  • If the hydrologic investigation shows that flow rates and velocities (for Vp10 and Vp100) with the proposed detention facility increase by less than 5 percent from the pre-developed condition, and no existing structures are impacted, then no additional analysis is necessary. If the flow rates and velocities increase by more than 5 percent, then the designer should either redesign the detention structure, evaluate the effects of no detention structure, or propose corrective actions to the impacted downstream areas. Additional investigations may be required by the approving authority on a case-by-case basis depending on the magnitude of the project, the sensitivity of the receiving water resource, or other issues such as past drainage or flooding complaints. Special caution should be employed where the analysis shows that no detention structure is required. Stormwater designers should be able to demonstrate that runoff will not cause downstream flooding within the stream reach to the location defined by the 10 percent rule.

A local community may elect to waive the Vp100 criteria when a development project

  • directly discharges to a large reservoir or lake;
  • directly discharges to a 4th order or larger stream or river;
  • is smaller than five acres in area;
  • is a redevelopment or infill project; or
  • is within an area where a regional flood model indicates that 100-year control is not needed at a particular site.

Some Minnesota communities base their extreme storm design on a rain-on-snow scenario, rather than a specific design storm approach. Under this scenario, communities may define the effective 100-year event as having as much as 7.2 inches of equivalent rainfall that needs to be controlled to pre-development levels. There is little basis for this approach in Minnesota based on rainfall records or experience, and it clearly results in costly over-control, although some communities chose to continue its use for conservative design in land-locked basins.

This page was last modified on 30 December 2013, at 08:58.

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