SEATTLE—King County has received notification from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that their plan for how to implement the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is sufficient to protect salmon within the unincorporated portions of King County.
“We are on the path to a healthier environment, flood protection, and economic growth, through our comprehensive floodplain management program,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
King County submitted a programmatic habitat assessment of current and anticipated future impacts of regulated land-use upon Chinook and steelhead salmon and their habitats. This assessment conducted an in-depth analysis of how numerous King County regulations manage and restrict the potential for further land development within the 100-year floodplain across the county, while also promoting restoration of some natural floodplain functions and processes in some watersheds of the county. FEMA determined that the assessment was able to demonstrate that King County implements a floodplain development program that is compliant with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
This good news means that King County citizens will continue to be eligible to purchase flood insurance. The decision also allows King County to continue issuing permits for development in floodplains, as long as the projects can be shown to be in compliance with the ESA.
“We believe flood risk prevention goes hand in hand with fisheries habitat protection,” said FEMA Region 10 Acting Regional Administrator Sharon Loper, whose agency oversees the flood insurance program. “King County is to be commended for its efforts to comply with the Endangered Species Act.”
Since 2008, as a result of a Biological Opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the NFIP has required participating communities in the Puget Sound area to take measures to protect critical salmon species and their habitat in order to continue participating in the program. Last September, all 122 communities in the Puget Sound area were required to enforce regulations that require all floodplain development be compliant with the ESA.
“King County continues to be a leader in overseeing development in its floodplains while balancing requirements to protect fish and wildlife,” said King County Flood Control District Chair Julia Patterson. “Our efforts save floodplain property owners time and money, while at the same time safeguarding precious habitat.”
King County’s plan for overseeing development in its floodplains is an important document, because other communities that also need to adapt their regulations could review it as an example of one programmatic approach open to them to demonstrate compliance with the Biological Opinion issued by NMFS. The King County model is complex and thorough, but smaller communities that now need to be in compliance with the ESA could apply the methodology used by King County and scale the level of effort to meet their size and needs.
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