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Floodplain management: Planning & regulation

Washington is one of the most flood-prone states in the nation, and floodplain areas have the highest flood risk. We help local governments reduce flooding risks through planning and regulation in their flood hazard areas, or “floodplains.”

Flooding is our state's most costly natural disaster

Cleaning up after a flood costs three times more than preventing flood damage in the first place. We help communities manage their floodplains by offering resources to identify flood hazards, plan a more flood-resilient landscape, and complete projects that reduce flood risk to both life and property.

National Flood Insurance Program

Local governments are responsible for managing development in floodplains under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This federal program provides flood insurance to homeowners and property owners. We help communities understand, and comply with, the requirements of the insurance program 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.

Critical Areas Ordinance & Frequently Flooded Areas

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).

Fighting flood hazard risk together

Statewide, we assist FEMA and the Washington Military Department's Emergency Management Division address flood hazard challenges by working together to:

  • Evaluate community floodplain management programs and review ordinances
  • Participate in statewide flood hazard mitigation planning
  • Assist with funding challenges through flood grants
  • Coordinate in floodplain mapping
  • Regulate Washington's flood hazard management statues and rules