Critical Areas Ordinances Updates
The Critical Areas Ordinances (CAOs) are a collection of development regulations intended to conserve the functions of environmentally sensitive areas, and to protect the public from hazards associated with developing in areas like floodways and landslide hazard areas. Washington State Law requires cities and counties to include regulations specific to five types of critical areas. 

Critical Areas Ordinance Update Icons_Wetlands


Critical Areas Ordinance Update Icons_Critical Aquifer Recharge Area

Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (CARAs)

Critical Areas Ordinance Update Icons_Fish and Wildlife Conservation Areas

Fish & Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (FWHCA)

Critical Areas Ordinance Update Icons_Geologically Hazardous Areas

Geological Hazards Areas

Critical Areas Ordinance Update Icons_Flood Hazard Area

Frequently Flooded Areas (FFAs)
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The engagement period for the Critical Areas Ordinances Updates closed on March 6, 2023, but you can still learn about the changes being considered in our: 

  Online Open House  

  Why are we updating the Critical Areas Ordinances Now?

Under Washington State Law, all counties and cities in the state must conduct a periodic review and update of their critical areas regulations. This happens every 10 years as we review and update our Comprehensive Plan, which guides the growth anticipated in the region in the next 20 years. This periodic update provides an opportunity for the County to make sure our regulations are consistent with federal and state policies, and incorporate scientific advancements related to environmental conservation and natural hazards.

Pierce County has produced a report on the "Best Available science" that will be incorporated into these regulations. You can find the full report HERE.

Thank you for your input during the Critical Areas Engagement period! 
On June 5th, 2023, County staff shared a summary of the Critical Areas Engagement period and the input we received with the Piece County Council Community Development Committee. You can find our report summarizing the engagement period here. 

Your input and the Best Available Science report will help staff to begin drafting Development Regulations. The CAO Engagement was not part of a 'formal comment period', which means we are not required to have a comment period at this stage of the project by the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) or any other policies. County staff will not be responding to each written comment individually as we usually do in a formal comment period. A formal comment period will take place once regulations are drafted. 

County staff will continue to endeavor to provide early and continuous public engagement on Critical Areas regulations and all aspects of the Comprehensive Plan update.
  Critical areas ordinances update process

√ 1. Best Available Science Review

Jurisdictions must document scientific sources that inform regulations or explain why policies depart from science. 

√ 2. Gap Analysis

Identifies policies that need to be updated based on science, or to comply with updated federal policies.

√ 3. Community Engagement

To ensure changes reflect your vision, needs and goals.

4. Draft Policy

Draft amendments to development regulations for public review and comment.

5. Formal Comment Period

Engagement period where the public can provide feedback on the drafted policy.

6. Final Development Regulations

Will be approved through the Comprehensive Plan update process.

√ = Complete