James City County’s Floodplains

James City County’s natural environment is one of its most valuable assets, and at the same time one of its most vulnerable. The County is located on a narrow, hilly, wooded peninsula between 3 major rivers: the James to the south, the York to the northeast and the Chickahominy to the west. The County possesses broad tidal and tributary floodplains adjacent to most of the streams and rivers.

Floodplain Areas

A floodplain is the level land directly adjacent to rivers and streams; as the interface between land and water bodies it performs many important functions. Floodplain areas help reduce the impacts of flooding by slowing and temporarily storing floodwaters during large storm events. In addition, the majority of floodplains in the County are comprised of an intact mix of wetland and non-wetland habitats that are home to plants and other living organisms that serve as filters, capturing sediment and harmful chemicals found in runoff.

This process improves the water quality before flowing to our streams and rivers. These corridors are also heavily used by migratory wildlife and are valued areas for recreation. Areas closest to water bodies became preferred locations for our original settlers making preservation even more important. The rich and diverse habitats found in our floodplain perform vital functions and help define our community in a way that far outweighs their relative size.

The County protects these floodplain areas through implementation of the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance. This ordinance designates all perennial streams, tidal shores and an adjacent 100-foot wide riparian buffer around the streams as Resource Protection Areas (RPA). The ordinance protects the natural functions of the RPA and prohibits their development or even disturbance without approval by the County in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance. All regulated floodplains in the County are along perennial streams or tidal shores, and therefore protected by the Ordinance as an RPA.

Development in Floodplain Areas

A permit is required for all proposed construction and other developments, including the placement of manufactured homes, within the floodway or any floodplain district. An application for subdivision, site plan, rezoning, building permit, special use permit, Virginia Erosion and Sediment Control Program/Virginia Stormwater Management Program permit, wetlands permit or other local development permit shall be considered an application for development under the floodplain regulations. The applicant shall be informed of the provisions of the floodplain regulations as they may apply to the property and no permit shall be issued until the applicant has complied with such provisions. Applications will be reviewed to ensure the proposed construction or other developments will be reasonably safe from flooding.

Development is defined as any man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate, including, but not limited to, buildings or other structures, the placement of manufactured homes, streets and other paving, utilities, filling, grading, excavation, mining, dredging, drilling operations, storage of equipment or materials.

You may apply for all plans or permits on PermitLink. Should any proposed development located in a floodplain which does not require any review or permit listed above, please apply for a Development in the Floodplain plan review.

Jamestown Ferry Flood Gauge

The James River gauge is located at the Virginia Department of Transportation ferry boat landing. The gauge presents in near real time the elevation of the James River. There are 3 categories of river flooding depicted on the graph. Minor flooding occurs at 4 feet, moderate flooding at 4.5 feet and major flooding at elevation 5 feet. Examples of major flooding were during Hurricanes Matthew and Florence when the water level reached the 5 foot level.