Floodplain Management

One of the many attractive features of Pierce County is the system of rivers flowing from Mount Rainier and its foothills to Puget Sound. These rivers flow through fertile agricultural valleys and heavily developed areas, but can quickly turn dangerous, sweeping away everything in their path. The goal of floodplain management is to maximize the beneficial uses and minimize flood losses in our rivers and surrounding floodplain.

What are Floodplains?

Floodplains are areas adjacent to rivers, streams, and other water bodies that store water during flooding. Undeveloped floodplains reduce the frequency, severity and duration of high water flows. They also provide other benefits such as fertile soil for farming, habitat for fish and wildlife, and scenic areas for recreation.

Pierce County has taken a comprehensive approach to floodplain management to reduce flood damages and promote public safety, while protecting the ecological, economic, and other benefits floodplains provide.

The recently completed Rivers Flood Hazard Management Plan guides how flooding and channel migration hazards on the major rivers, large tributaries, and their associated floodplains are managed. In addition, Pierce County uses a variety of floodplain management tools such as regulations, levees, floodplain restoration projects, property purchases, and public education.

Floodplain Development in Pierce County

Construction within floodplains is regulated by many agencies, including local, county, state, tribal and federal agencies. Since 1974, Pierce County has participated in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Participation within the program requires that the county adopt and enforce floodplain development regulations to reduce future flood risks. In return, the federal government makes flood insurance available to home and business owners. The more comprehensive the local regulations, the greater the discount. Currently property owners in unincorporated Pierce County receive up to a 40% discount on flood insurance premiums.

Most building, clearing and excavation activities in Pierce County require a permit. Contact Pierce County Planning and Public Works for more information.