Floodplain management

Climate change and floodplain management

Air & Climate

Washington is one of the most flood-prone states in the nation, having nearly 30 presidential disaster declarations since 1953. We help local governments reduce flooding risks through planning and regulation in their special flood hazard areas, or “floodplains.”


Holistic flood hazard management is critical to address the delicate balance between flood risk reduction, resource protection, and land-use development. We developed guidance on Comprehensive Planning for Flood Hazard Management for communities undertaking this effort. These plans are a valuable tool to identify the risks and needs of communities requesting assistance through the Flood Control Assistance Account, Floodplains by Design, and other state and federal grant programs, and to prioritize projects undertaken by flood control zone districts. 


Local governments are responsible for managing development in floodplains under the NFIP, which is part of FEMA. This federal program provides flood insurance to homeowners and property owners. There are more than 36,000 flood insurance policies in Washington providing nearly $10 billion in insurance coverage. We help communities understand and comply with the requirements of the federal program  — in addition to Washington floodplain management laws — to keep their flood risks lower.

In Puget Sound, we help local governments comply with the standards in the National Marine Fisheries Service NFIP Biological Opinion, which protects endangered species in the floodplain. For more about this effort, see FEMA's current guidance for local communities working to implement the insurance program while protecting federally-listed endangered species.

Washington counties and cities engaged in planning under the state Growth Management Act are required to periodically review and update their Critical Areas Ordinances. These ordinances address Frequently Flooded Areas to promote safety from floods (see Guidance for Floodplains - Critical Area Ordinance (CAO)).