FAQs & Resources
Q: How do I know if my property is in a floodway or floodplain?
A: To verify whether your property is in a Floodway or Floodplain you can use the following resources:
Find your property in Pierce County Public GIS.
Once on the site, click the Data Menu drop-down for “environmental” data and check the box for “floodways” and “regulated floodplain 2017” to see the current risk mapping.
Q: What can I do with my property if it is in a Floodway?
A: Most construction—including building and bringing in fill material—in Pierce County is prohibited. Some development in flood hazard areas are restricted or not allowed, or may have requirements for elevating structures, providing special access, or other mitigation. If your property was damaged by a flood, permits are also required before you can repair structures. Some examples of what may be allowed on your property in the floodway are shown below, although most upgrades, repairs, replacements, and construction are subject to specific conditions.
See Pierce County Code Title: 18E.20 and 18E.70 for more information and relevant conditions.
- Structures that don’t require a building permit and have no associated fill.
- Repairs of an existing structure are allowed to a certain threshold. Contact Pierce County staff to find out what threshold that is for you.
- Reconstruction and replacement of existing farmhouse in excess of substantial improvement limits on Agricultural Resource Lands (ARL) or Rural Farm zoned areas.
- Rehabilitation, reconstruction, or an upper story addition to an existing structure that does not exceed the limits for a substantial improvement.
- Replacement of a mobile or manufactured home with a mobile recreational vehicle.
- Agricultural activities that don’t require new structures and that don’t have any associated fill.
Q: How can I change the flood map or flood designation on my property?
A: If you believe your property is mapped in error, the County can assist property owners with completing the Letter of Map Change forms with FEMA.
Q: Is flood insurance required for properties within the CMZ or DFF?
A: The federal requirement to purchase flood insurance only applies to structures with a federally back loan or mortgage that are in a mapped Special Flood Hazard Area - SFHA. These are flood hazards mapped as a Zone A or V. There is not a direct correlation between the CMZ and DFF floodways and the FEMA mapped SFHA. Purchasing flood insurance is advised in any flood hazard area.
Q: What is meant by Substantial Improvement?
A: County code allows repairs and improvements to be made on a non-conforming structure. When the work exceeds 50% of the value of the structure (over a 5-year period), the structure needs to be brought up to current code. The County Building Official makes this determination and measures the work against the value of the structure before the project is started or the structure prior to damage from any source.
Q: How can I keep my family safe during a flood?
A: Have a plan for your personal and financial safety. This starts by knowing where the flood hazards are and avoiding them during a flood. For homes in the floodplain have a safe evacuation plan that includes when and where to go. For the building and its contents, have flood insurance to be able to quickly have funds to replace and repair damaged items. Understand how high the water can get and keep items that can not be replaced high above the flood waters reach. Learn more about flood preparedness.
Q: Why does Pierce County regulate these areas?
A: Pierce County will continue to regulate this area to:
- Protect human life and health;
- Minimize expenditure of public money and costly flood control projects;
- Minimize the need for rescue and relief efforts associated with flooding;
- Minimize prolonged business interruptions;
- Minimize damage to public infrastructure, facilities and utilities;
- Minimize damage to critical fish and wildlife habitat areas;
- Minimize net loss of ecological functions of floodplains;
- Ensure that potential buyers are notified that property is in a flood hazard area;
- Ensure that those who occupy flood hazard areas assume responsibility for their actions; and
- Qualify Pierce County for participation in the National Flood Insurance Program, thereby giving the citizens of Pierce County the opportunity to purchase flood insurance with particular emphasis to those in flood hazard areas.
+ FEMA Flood Insurance: Flood Insurance | FEMA.gov
+ Department of Emergency Management
+ PALS: PALS Online (piercecountywa.gov)