Amanda Beck

Spokane’s Floodplain and Your Property

Amanda Beck, Assistant Planner II, 509.625.6414

Monday, July 26, 2021 at 12:06 p.m.

Spokane’s Floodplain and Your Property

Washington State is one of the most flood-prone states in the nation, having nearly 30 Presidential Disaster Declarations since 1953. According to Ecology, there are 84 policies for properties across the City totaling $20.5 million dollars in insurance. And, in the State there are over 32,500 policies covering over $8 billion dollars of flood insurance coverage. With both the City’s geography and geology, we’re prone to flooding around the Spokane River and Latah Creek. While there isn’t a huge need in Spokane for flood insurance, the City wants to protect what property does lie within a floodplain.

A floodplain is the area of land adjacent to a river, creek, lake, and bay or sea that stretches from the banks of water to the base of the enclosing valley walls, which is why this area is sometimes referred to as a bottomland. Floodplains experience flooding during periods of high discharge and hold the excess volume of water that the floodway is not able to accommodate. Often when people say floodplain, they mean the 100-year floodplain, any area that has a one percent chance of experiencing a base flood in any given year. Along both the Spokane River and Latah Creek there is a 100-year floodplain that naturally accommodates excess water due to occurrences such as heavy rain or snowmelt.

To limit loss of property or life due to flooding, the City participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). By participating in NFIP, Spokane residents are able to obtain flood insurance to protect their property, helping them recover in the event of damage due to flooding. FEMA and the Washington Department of Ecology, which leads floodplain management for the state, require communities like Spokane to have floodplain regulations to manage buildings within a flood zone, all with the goal to prevent or reduce the risk of flooding.

Spokane is required to enforce flood hazard reduction regulations that meet the minimum requirements of the NFIP, as well as state-specific requirements outlined by Ecology. In December 2019, Ecology revised the state’s FEMA Model Ordinance to incorporate new minimum regulations that must be adopted by December 2021. As such, the City is currently working with Ecology to review and update the City’s standards and requirements to comply with federal and state changes.

To learn more about the proposed amendments, you can visit the 2021 Floodplain Management Update project page. If you’re interested in learning more about the proposed changes, please join us for an online open house via WebEx on Thursday, August 19, 6 to 7:30 p.m. The login for the open house will be available on the project page the week of the event. You can also email questions directly to Amanda Beck, Assistant Planner II, at

If you want to learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program visit To see if your property is within a flood zone, you can view the FEMA FIRM mapping tool online.

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