Floodway Development Code Change

Planning and Development Services (PDS) is proposing a minor change to our development code (Title 2). We are reaching out to you as a stakeholder with information about the change.

Last December, Department of Ecology’s floodplain management division notified the City of Tacoma that they would be performing a Community Assistance Contact (CAC) to discuss the implementation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in our community. Washington’s Department of Ecology manages the floodplain program for our state, and develops a model floodplain ordinance that provides the codes and requirements communities adopt and enforce a compliant local floodplain ordinance in order for their citizens to be eligible for NFIP floodplain insurance. City of Tacoma’s floodplain ordinance is in Title 2 – Building Code and is updated on a regular basis to maintain compliance with NFIP. Planning and Development Services manages the adoption, implementation, and enforcement of the City’s floodplain regulations through the review and approval of permits for development.

Ecology’s CAC occurred in April 2020. The CAC is a form of technical assistance that allows Ecology, as the state coordinating agency working on behalf of FEMA, to meet with the City to review their floodplain management regulations and permitting procedures, current flood insurance rate maps, floodplain management violations within the city limits, and any needed training or areas of concern. Ecology’s review the City of Tacoma’s floodplain development regulations found that the City’s floodplain development regulations are largely consistent with the WA model flood damage prevention ordinance with only a few minor exceptions as follows:
• Model ordinance section 5.1-4(2): “Water wells shall be located on high ground that is not in the floodway.”
• Model ordinance section 5.4-2: “Construction or reconstruction of residential structures is prohibited within designated floodway.”

Although the City’s critical area regulations would prevent any permanent impacts in the floodway and effectively require compliance with the model ordinance, the City is required to update the floodplain management regulations within Title 2.02 Building Code to fully comply with the NFIP requirements. The proposed changes to Title 2.02 have been reviewed by Ecology’s floodplain management representative who has stated that the City’s ordinance will be in compliance with the State’s model ordinance with the changes. The proposed code changes need to be in effect by the end of December, 2021 for the City to be considered in good standing with the NFIP program.

More information on the NFIP

Flood insurance is available to anyone living in one of the 23,000 participating NFIP communities across the country. Homes and businesses in high-risk flood areas with mortgages from government-backed lenders are required to have flood insurance. FEMA manages the NFIP and provides flood insurance to eligible communities. The agency not only helps the individual homeowners and businesses recover faster after a flood, but also provides management and resources to communities during the recovery period. In addition, to help communities lower the risk of future floods, FEMA provides funding for mitigation of flood prone areas, training, updating maps, and many other services to protect communities from the damages of floods.

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