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National Flood Insurance Program & the Endangered Species Act

This page contains the current guidance available for local communities to implement the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in a manner that is compliant with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Between 1980 and 2013, the United States suffered more than $260 billion in flood-related damages. With climate change, flooding risks will increase over time. FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides homeowners and communities protection from the most costly and common disaster in the United States by providing affordable insurance to property owners and by encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations. 

FEMA feels that land use and flood control practices that protect salmon, and their critical habitat, also means implementing good floodplain management that will ultimately reduce damages to flood.

FEMA will continue its strong support for the Endangered Species Act -  in Oregon and throughout the nation -  as it works to help communities prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards, including flooding.  As a good steward of the environment, FEMA will take steps to use its legal authorities under the National Flood Insurance Act to support the Endangered Species Act. FEMA will be reviewing the entire biological opinion and over the next 60 days will be working with communities to determine best ways to implement the requirements.

The purpose of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is to:

  • Provide a means to conserve species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.
  • All federal departments and agencies shall utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of the Act.

The purpose of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is to:

  • Better indemnify individuals for flood losses through insurance;
  • Reduce future flood damages through state and community floodplain management regulations; and
  • Reduce Federal expenditures for disaster assistance and flood control.

Floodplain Management and the Endangered Species Act in Washington State

A screenshot of a video player with trees in the background and the text The National Flood Insurance Program Puget Sound Biological Opinion & Habitat Assesments December 2016.

Guidance Documents

  • Regional Guidance for Hydrologic and Hydraulic Studies (PDF 768KB, TXT 51KB)
  • CRS Credits for Habitat Protection (PDF 1.79MB, TXT 52KB)
  • Engineering With Nature (PDF 2.6MB, TXT 75KB)

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Bulkheads
    This document provides information on how bulkheads should be permitted with the Puget Sound region in order to comply with the ESA and the Biological Opinion.
  • ESA Compliance for Levee Construction and Maintenance (PDF 341KB)
    This document provides information on how FEMA “recognizes” levees for mapping purposes and ensures new levee construction and maintenance of existing levees is compliant with the ESA.
  • BiOp performance and Map Changes - (PDF 494KB)
    This document provides information on how FEMA ensures compliance with the ESA when processing Letters of Map Change.
  • Riparian Buffers Zone – (PDF 84KB, TXT 6KB)
    This memo discusses the factors that jurisdictions must analyze and comply with when they document how they are abiding by the requirements of the BO for riparian zones that are between their current regulatory boundaries, and the standard riparian buffer zones listed in the BO (i.e. when jurisdictional buffer zones are narrower that the pertinent RBZs listed in the BO).
  • Compensatory Storage – (PDF 62KB, TXT 2.3KB)
    Describes the requirement to provide new on-site or off-site additional storage to compensate for any loss of flood storage due to new land development projects.
  • Low Density Development – (PDF 66KB,TXT 4KB)
    This memo outlines where low density development is required, and how it is defined.
  • Stormwater Management and Low Impact Development
    Discusses when low impact development is required, and what options are available to comply.
  • Channel Migration Zone – (PDF 65KB, TXT 4KB)
    Describes the methods available to adequately delineate, map, and protect the channel migration zone.
  • Vegetation Retention – (PDF 103KB, TXT 6KB)
    This memo further clarifies the intent, and options to comply with the standards in the BO to maintain 65 percent of the area of lots in and undeveloped state as natural vegetation.
  • Compliance Options
    Outlines the assumptions and differing requirements under the Door 1, Door 2, and Door 3 options to comply with the BO.
  • Identifying the Protected Area – (PDF 70KB, TXT 5KB)
    Discusses how the Protected Area is delineated and what functions and processes must be preserved in it.
  • Cumulative Effects- (PDF 36KB, TXT 8KB)
    Discusses how the requirement to assess cumulative effects can be met under a Door 2 programmatic approach versus a Door 3 permit-by-permit approach.
  • Door 3 Clarification
    Describes what the process is for jurisdictions to comply with the BO on a permit-by-permits basis.
  • Habitat Analysis Scales – (PDF 74KB, TXT 10KB)
    Discusses the process and assumptions that jurisdictions need to make when they establish the pertinent temporal and spatial scales to apply for each habitat analysis.
  • Ensuring Compliance with the Biological Opinion- (PDF 42KB, TXT 7KB)
    Discusses FEMA’s process for ensuring communities are enforcing the performance standards of the Biological Opinion.
  • Levee Vegetation for Mapping- (PDF 71KB, TXT 6KB)
    Discusses FEMA’s process for accrediting levees that have vegetation incorporated into the design.

What is the Model Ordinance?

The Model Ordinance is a template that cities, counties and tribes can customize and adopt which allows land users to comply with the NFIP and the ESA. 

The Model Ordinance was developed with input from future users. This input was obtained using focus groups. Thirteen of the 122 affected communities attended the groups. These communities varied in experience, size and Community Rating System (CRS) status.

The intent of the Focus Groups was to insure the Ordinace was implementable at the local level.

Other Pertinant Documents

Floodplain Management and the Endangered Species Act in Oregon

For more information, please email

Last Updated: 
02/07/2019 - 15:43