Floodplains by Design grants available

We are now accepting applications from local governments and non-profit agencies for the 2023-2025 Floodplains by Design grant program. This innovative grant is a public-private partnership that has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to communities across our state to reduce the effects of flooding.

A house tilting on its side as it is swept away by roiling, muddy floodwaters on the Cowlitz River

A house swept away by floodwaters on the Cowlitz River in 2008.

Every year countless homes, structures, and businesses across Washington are inundated by floodwaters. From year to year, it is impossible to predict when and where these floods will strike, but no matter where it occurs, flooding is a certainty.

From prolonged winter rains and flash floods, to spring snowmelt and rain-on-snow events, there is an 80% chance that 10 or more flood incidents will happen in the state in a given year. And as the climate changes, the frequency of flooding is predicted to increase.

In many cases, floods are exacerbated by the very projects intended to control them. Many communities have straightened river channels, built levees, and drained wetlands to combat floods. But when coupled with the encroachment of homes and businesses onto historic floodplains – where rivers used to frequently flood and freely meander – these communities face a problem only predicted to get worse.

Despite efforts to control flooding, the magnitude, cost, and duration of floods has been increasing almost exponentially. However, nature itself provides solutions to protect life and property from these damaging floods.

Learning from nature's design

Roots and stumps installed along a river bank

Woody debris installed along a river bank to slow the flow of floodwaters and provide habitat for fish and animals. 

For millennia, floodplains have provided benefits for both humans and the environment. Fertile habitat and arable farmland is often plentiful in healthy floodplains. Frequent flooding brings new sediment, creates meandering channels, and deposits woody debris and nutrients.

Floodplains slow the flow and provide oxbows and wetlands that can soak up and store floodwaters. Think of them as shock absorbers – on your car they absorb excess energy smoothing out the ride, in a floodplain they absorb excess water and energy from floods, slowing their intensity and advance.

The Floodplains by Design (FbD) program's innovative partnership with the Nature Conservancy focuses on re-establishing floodplain functions in Washington’s major river corridors. These projects often undo past practices intended to prevent flooding, by creating places where flooding can happen, by design. While this can seem counterintuitive, it is a proven approach for reducing major flooding and property damage downstream.

While mother nature's fury can't always be stopped, it can often be tamed and redirected. Our grants help communities across Washington update their flood planning practices to co-exist with flooding – to mitigate and manage rather than trying to prevent it.

Applying for Floodplains by Design grants

Every two years, we invite local and tribal governments, flood control and water districts, and non-profit agencies to submit project proposals to help mitigate flooding. These organizations use our grants to complete multi-benefit projects that reduce flood hazards to communities while restoring the natural functions of rivers and their floodplains. These projects bring together many different stakeholders in the floodplain to:

  • Improve flood protection for communities that live and work in floodplains
  • Conserve and restore habitat for salmon and other important aquatic species
  • Preserve farmland to keep agriculture viable for future generations
  • Improve water quality
  • Enhance outdoor recreation

We have awarded over $200 million for FbD grants over the past eight years, helping dozens of communities with small and large projects to protect their residents, businesses and property from damaging floods.

Application workshop

We are holding a workshop Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. to help potential applicants learn about the new 2023-2025 Floodplains by Design funding opportunity.

It will cover the grant application process including eligible projects, scoring criteria, timeline, budget information, and general grant application guidance. Interested applicants have until Jan. 14, 2022 to submit a pre-application.

Please visit our Floodplains by Design grants page for full details on how you can apply for this grant opportunity.