Pierce County Flood Code and Shoreline Master Program Update
Pierce County has updated 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.
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.
Thank you for your comments
Throughout this process, Pierce County was committed to working with the community and interested parties to provided clear information and opportunities to comment.
The process is now complete and public comment periods have concluded.
- 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 was held on September 28, 2021 September 28, 2021 Committee Meeting (pierce.wa.us)
- Concurrently with Pierce County Council meeting was held November 30, 2021. Please visit our Council Meeting webpage for more info: November 30, 2021 Council Meeting (pierce.wa.us)
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.
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).
- 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
- Late Fall 2021: Washington State Department of Ecology issues Determination of Consistency, County Council adoption, finalize shoreline master program changes.
The updates have been completed and Pierce County is now operating under the flood code and shoreline master plan updates.
Following the approval from the Pierce County Council on November 30th, the project team worked with the Washington State Department of Ecology to obtain approval of the changes to the Shoreline Master Plan. That approval from Ecology was received and a copy can be found here: DOE Final Approval Letter with Attachment A: DOE Findings and Conclusions
Pierce County Planning and Public Works and Washington State Department of Ecology recently held a comment period on proposed amendments to Pierce County’s Shoreline Master Program. The joint local/state public comment period ran from September 10th through October 9th 2021. No public comments were received.
Public comments were accepted during the Pierce County Council meeting on November 30, 2021. Please visit November 30, 2021 Council Meeting (pierce.wa.us) for more meeting information.