2021 Floodplain Management Update


Local governments are responsible for managing development in floodplains under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is overseen by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Washington state is one of the most flood-prone states in the nation, having nearly 30 Presidential Disaster Declarations since 1953. Close to 300 towns, cities, counties, and tribes within Washington participate in the NFIP, and Spokane is one.

As a condition of participation in the NFIP, communities are required to adopt and enforce a flood hazard reduction ordinance that meets the minimum requirements of the NFIP, and there are additional requirements identified by state law that are more restrictive. FEMA requires that communities meet those state standards as well.

The Washington Department of Ecology leads floodplain management for the state by providing technical assistance in managing floodplains. In December 2019, Ecology revised the state’s FEMA Model Ordinance to incorporate new minimum regulations that must be adopted by local communities. The City is required to complete a text amendment of its floodplain management regulations to comply with these state changes, to be completed by December 2021.

Goals of the Periodic Review

The goal of floodplain management regulations is to reduce life and property losses due to flooding events, and to protect the environmental functions that floodplains offer. Spokane’s proposed amendments to its Floodplain Management ordinance will:

  • Comply with the appropriate Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Revised Code of Washington (RCW), and Washington Administrative Code (WAC) requirements;
  • Be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and City development regulations;
  • Respond to changed circumstances, new information, or improved data; and
  • Allow appropriate use and enjoyment of land within the floodplain while protecting life and property.

Summary of Proposed Amendments

The proposed amendments to the Spokane Municipal Code require amending Chapter 17A.020 Definitions and various sections of Chapter 17E.030 Floodplain Management. Working closely with Ecology, the City will review the current regulations against the updated FEMA Model Ordinance to determine what to review and where each applicable issue is addressed in the Floodplain Management ordinance, resulting in changes that meet or exceed minimum requirements. This periodic update will not result in changes to Chapter 9: Natural Environment of the Comprehensive Plan.

  • Amend Section 17A.020.010 to add a definition for altered watercourse, and update the Special Flood Hazard area.
  • Amend Section 17A.020.020 to add a definition of Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
  • Update Section 17A.020.040 to update the definition of floodplain development.
  • Amend Section 17A.020.060 to add new definitions to “flood or flooding” to align with changes to the FEMA Model Ordinance, and add several new definitions for items such as Flood Insurance Rate Map and Flood Elevation Study.
  • Revise Section 17A.020.080 to add new definitions, such as highest adjacent grade and historic structures in the floodplain.
  • Update Section 17A.020.130 to include a definition of mean sea level.
  • Revise Section 17A.020.140 to update the definition of new construction in the floodplain.
  • Amend Section 17A.020.190 to add definitions for “start of construction,” added clarification for “structure” when it is within the floodplain, and new content outlining “substantial improvements” within the floodplain.
  • Revise Section 17E.030.030 to refine the stated intent and purpose of the floodplain regulations.
  • Amend Section 17E.030.050 to update references to the City’s Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps, updated by FEMA in 2010, and to add a section on compliance and severability.
  • Update Section 17E.030.060 to clarify requirements for a floodplain development permit, such as requiring engineering analysis, which will bring the City’s regulations into compliance with federal and state regulation changes.
  • Update Section 17E.030.070 to use consistent language of “floodplain administrator” as outlined in the FEMA Model Ordinance.
  • Revise Section 17E.030.080 to use the “floodplain administrator” language, add a section for noticing FEMA when land in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) is annexed, adding a new section concerning changes to the SFHA among other updates.
  • Clarifying Sections 17E.030.090 and 17E.030.100 concerning variances for structures within the floodplain.
  • Repeal Section 17E.030.120 which references out of date federal guidelines and standards.
  • Revise Section 17E.030.130 to clarify anchoring requirements, remove provisions concerning the AO Zone, add requirements concerning storing materials and equipment in the floodplain, and adding a new subsection regulating other developments so as to minimize flood damage and losses.
  • Update Section 17E.030.140 to include residential construction requirements in the AE and A Zones, to comply with federal and state requirements, and add new commercial construction requirements.
  • Clarify Section 17E.030.150 concerning building in AE Zones with Base Flood Elevations that are not in floodways or where a floodway has not been designated.
  • Amend Section 17E.030.160 to add sections on replacing or repairing farmhouses within the floodway and substantially damaged residences within the floodway, and to add a new section on .
  • Revise Section 17E.030.170 to remove reference to the AO Zone, which does not exist in Spokane’s floodplains, and to update language about critical public facilities within the floodplain.


Please contact Amanda Beck, Assistant Planner, with Planning Services if you have questions or would like to provide public comment. You can email comments to abeck@spokanecity.org, or by mail to Attn: Amanda Beck, 808 W. Spokane Falls Boulevard, Spokane, WA 99201-3333.

Floodplain Management Amendment Documents

Legislative Process

Boards and Committees

  • Urban Experience Committee, Briefing (Agenda and Video) – July 12, 202
  • Community Assembly, Briefing 2 – August 5, 2021

Plan Commission

  • Workshop (Agenda) – August 11, 2021

Public Hearings

  • Plan Commission Public Hearing (Agenda) - September 22, 2021
  • City Council meetings are scheduled for October

Related Resources

Public Hearing Notice

City Council
Advance Agenda: Monday, October 11 at 3:30 p.m.
First Reading: Monday, October 18 at 6:00 p.m.
Legislative Session: Monday, October 25 at 6:00 p.m.
Meetings are live streamed online and air on City Cable 5

Contact Information

Amanda Beck, AICP
Assistant Planner II

Tirrell Black, AICP
Principal Planner