In February of 2020, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) required Seattle to update our floodplain regulations to include FEMA’s new Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) and the Flood Insurance Study (FIS). FEMA’s adoption of the new map and study also included an audit of Seattle’s floodplain regulations. Through the audit, FEMA identified several places in Seattle’s code that needed to be amended in order to comply with the minimum standards in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). FEMA included the following required amendments in their audit: new definitions and updates to existing definitions to meet minimum standards; updates to the regulatory floodway development standards; and the inclusion of newly mapped coastal high hazard flood zone (VE zone) and required regulations for this zone.
In order to meet FEMA’s requirements, City Council adopted interim Floodplain Development Regulations on July 20, 2020, as Ordinance 126113 that took effect on August 23, 2020. On January 19, 2021, City Council extended the interim regulations through February 2022 as Ordinance 119978 to provide additional time for SDCI to develop permanent regulations. Seattle is required to have permanent Floodplain Development Regulations prior to the expiration of the interim regulations. Without permanent regulations, property owners in floodplains may not be able to purchase new flood insurance or renew an existing policy.
SDCI has completed proposed permanent Floodplain Development Regulations and will publish the threshold determination on July 8 in SDCI’s Land Use and Information Bulletin. The intent of this declaration is to satisfy the requirement of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA; RCW 43.21C), including the requirement to inform the public of agency decisions pursuant to SEPA. This SEPA decision analyzes the full range of regulatory changes that were part of the interim Floodplain Development Regulations adopted in July 2020 and the additional regulatory changes proposed for the permanent Floodplain Development Regulations. The additional changes include SDCI’s proposal to increase the elevation for construction to 3-feet above base flood elevation to account for sea level rise and new sections that include standards for the storage of materials and equipment, and standards for accessory structures.
If you have questions regarding the proposed permanent Floodplain Development Regulations or maps, please contact Joel Lehn via e-mail at Joel.Lehn@seattle.gov and Maggie Glowacki at Margaret.Glowacki@seattle.gov.
If you would like to be added to SDCI’s e-mail distribution list to receive information regarding the permanent regulations, please sign up for our listserv on our Floodplain Development Regulations Update webpage.