Pierce County Flood Code and Shoreline Master Program Update

About the Updates

Pierce County is updating its flood code regulations to ensure compatibility with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP offers insurance to property owners in participating communities that adopt land use control measures that reduce the potential for flood damages. 

In February 2021, FEMA notified Pierce County that changes were needed to its flood codes if the County wanted to continue participating in NFIP. Participation in NFIP protects County residents from the hazards of flooding and guarantees the availability of affordable flood insurance and access to disaster assistance funds. As part of the NFIP Pierce County participates in the Community Rating System and is currently a Class 2 community which grants residents a 40% reduction in flood insurance costs. The flood code update will also adopt the last two channel migration studies, fix some typographical errors and further explain hard to understand terms. Updating these flood codes also requires an update to the Shoreline Master Program.

Update Goals

The goal of these flood code updates is to maintain compliance with the NFIP.

  • Provide timely information about the proposed changes
  • Amend the code consistent with the Shoreline Master Program
  • Educate interested and affected parties on the county’s flood risk reduction policies, programs and regulations to improve understanding and NFIP compliance
  • Provide opportunities to learn more about the proposed changes and make comments at key project milestones.


We Want to Hear From You

Throughout this process, Pierce County is committed to working with the community and interested parties to providing clear information and opportunities to comment. 

You will have multiple opportunities to provide feedback:

  • State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Checklist and Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) comment period (June 4th -June 18th)  Both are found below:

SEPA Checklist      SEPA SMP-Flood Code DNS Shoreline Master Program Submittal Checklist

  • Concurrently with the Planning Commission Briefing scheduled for May 25, 2021 
  • Concurrently with the Planning Commission Hearing scheduled for June 22, 2021 (Planning Commission webpage)
  • Concurrently with the Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee briefing scheduled for September 14, 2021
  • Concurrently with the Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee/Washington Department of Ecology Joint Hearing scheduled for September 28, 2021 
  • Concurrently with Pierce County Council meeting (exact date to be determined)

We want to hear your feedback on the proposed flood code and Shoreline Master Program (SMP) changes. Your comments will help our team best understand how you might be affected by the proposed changes. 

Contact Us 

Pierce County Staff is available to discuss the flood code and shoreline master plan updates and what it could mean for you.

Dennis Dixon

Floodplain Engineer 


[email protected] 

Related Resources

For more information about other resources seen on this page, check out the links below.


Shoreline Master Program

An amendment to the Pierce County Shoreline Master Program (SMP) is proposed. This is because the SMP in Title 18S adopts most of Pierce County Code Title 18E by reference, including the provisions for flood control. The proposed amendment would remove the flood code from the SMP. 

SMPs are unique documents because authority for final approval rests with the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology). When the County proposes an update to Title 18E, because it has been included in the SMP by reference, the County must go through the required review process with Ecology to ensure that the changes are consistent with the Shoreline Management Act. Our current Program remains in effect until the amended Master Program is approved by Ecology. 

The Pierce County Shoreline Master Program is the set of policies and regulations that implement the State Shoreline Management Act, which was adopted by voters in 1972 to ensure coordination and efficient management of activities along the State’s shorelines. Pierce County is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Ecology to update our flood hazard codes. The flood code is implemented under the National Flood Insurance Program and described below. Incorporation of the Pierce County Flood Code is not required for consistency with the Shoreline Management Act and Ecology is recommending removal from the Shoreline Master Program.

The proposed amendments to the flood code administered in Title 18 and 18E, do not change any of the policies or regulations specific to shorelines. A review of the current Ecology checklist of SMP requirements shows that the proposed changes are either consistent with existing policies and regulations or non-applicable. The SMP acknowledges that properties may be subject to additional standards in Title 18E. Refer to the Ecology Shoreline Master Program Submittal Checklist above for additional detail. The SMP acknowledges that properties may be subject to additional standards in Title 18.

Please see the links on the right hand side of the page that provide more information on the Shoreline Management Act and the Shoreline Planner’s Toolbox.

National Flood Insurance Program

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administers the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and it is a partnership between the federal government, the property and casualty insurance industry, states, local officials, lending institution, and property owners. Flood insurance is delivered to the public by a network of approximately 60 insurance companies and the NFIP Direct.

Floods can happen anywhere — just one inch of floodwater can cause up to $25,000 in damage. Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood insurance is a separate policy that can cover buildings, the contents in a building, or both, so it is important to protect your most important financial assets — your home, your business, your possessions.

The NFIP provides flood insurance to property owners, renters and businesses, and having this coverage helps them recover faster when floodwaters recede. The NFIP works with communities required to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations that help mitigate flooding effects.

Flood insurance is available to anyone living in one of the 23,000 participating NFIP communities. Pierce County has been a participating community since 1987. Homes and businesses in high-risk flood areas with mortgages from government-backed lenders are required to have flood insurance.

Learn more about the NFIP here Flood Insurance | FEMA.gov

For more information about what is covered and to find a policy visit FloodSmart.gov

  Proposed Flood Code Changes

The lead agency proposes to adopt a new updates the Pierce County Code (PCC) titles 18, 18E, and 18S to incorporate changes to flood hazard area code to ensure compatibility with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requirements for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Changes to the flood hazard codes in PCC section 18E and to definitions in section 18.25 are intended to minimize public and private losses due to flood conditions in flood hazard areas and provide criteria necessary for regulated activities located within flood hazard risk areas in Pierce County. Title 18S Development Policies and Regulations - Shorelines adopts section 18E by reference, which means that these updates require a technical amendment to Pierce County’s Shoreline Master Plan updating the effective date of Title 18E in 18S.10.065 B.

A brief summary of the proposed changes is found in the linked pdf: Proposed Ordinance Changes Summary

  • Changes are characterized as minor, moderate and significant by how they are expected to be received by stakeholders; 
  • There is a brief introduction to each item; the code citation; the section of code with proposed changes in strikeout (for deletion) and redline (for additions);
  • And a summary statement of why the change is being proposed.

A complete copy of the proposed changes, as it has been presented to County Council is found in the linked pdf: Proposed Changes to PCC Title 18

  • Included are Ordinance No. 2021-XX, Pierce County Code Title 18.25, 18E and 18S.
  • The section of code with proposed changes in strikeout (for deletion) and highlight (for additions).

  Project Timeline
  • Spring 2021: Pierce County staff proposes shoreline master program changes 
  • Early Summer 2021: Early public engagement, online open house and planning commission briefing/hearing, SEPA determination
  • Late Summer 2021: Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee/Washington State Department of Ecology joint hearing, public comment period
  • Early Fall 2021: Washington State Department of Ecology issues Determination of Consistency, County Council adoption, finalize shoreline master program changes.
Detailed information on hearing dates and times and comment period deadlines will be posted to the this webpage and will be sent to those on the interested parties list as they become available.
Next Steps

The ideas you share today help us learn about what’s important to you as we continue this work. We’ll keep this information in mind as we work through the proposed code changes. We expect to come back to you later this summer and share more information on our progress.

Provide Feedback

We Want to Hear from You!

Pierce County Planning and Public Works and Washington State Department of Ecology are seeking comments on proposed amendments to Pierce County’s Shoreline Master Program. The joint local/state public comment period will run from September 10th through October 9th. You can submit your comments via email to [email protected] or in writing at 2702 S. 42nd, Suite 109, Tacoma, WA 98404. All comments will be shared with the Washington State Department of Ecology. Public comments will also be accepted during the joint Pierce County/Washington Department of Ecology hearing at the Pierce County Economic and Infrastructure Development Committee hearing on September 28, 2021 at 9:30am.  Please visit Economic & Infrastructure Development | Pierce County, WA - Official Website (piercecountywa.gov) for more meeting information, including how to join the meeting virtually.

Share your ideas about the proposed code changes and how they might affect you. While some of the rules are mandated your input can guide how those rules can be most fairly implemented. This information will help us as we continue to develop and refine changes to the flood code and shoreline master program.

Please email Dennis Dixon with your comments. [email protected]