Floodplain Management and the Endangered Species Act (A Model Ordinance)

This model ordinance for floodplain management was developed by FEMA under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  It is a template that cities, counties and tribes can customize and adopt which allows land users to comply with the NFIP and the ESA. This model case is enacted for the State of Washington, to be implemented at the local level.

In 2008, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a Biological Opinion requiring changes to the implementation of the NFIP in order to meet the requirements of the Endangered Species Act in the Puget Sound watershed – noting that continued implementation of the NFIP in the sound adversely affects the habitat of certain threatened and endangered species.

This Model Ordinance has been developed to provide regulatory language to address the requirements spelled out in the Biological Opinion and is an example of some of the higher regulatory standards that all communities are encouraged to adopt. It provides a set of rules to protect human development from flooding and to minimize the impact of new developments and redevelopment on public safety, public health, property, water quality, and aquatic and riparian habitat.

FEMA offers a number of options to meet this ESA requirement:

1. Prohibit all development in the floodway and other areas as specified by the RPA.

2. Enact regulations that allow development that meet the criteria specified in the Biological Opinion by either:

a. Adopting this Model Ordinance (Option 1), or
b. Enforcing the same requirements in other ordinances, such as the growth management, zoning, or critical areas regulations, through use of the Biological Opinion Checklist (Option 2).

Communities may also opt to use a hybrid approach of Options 1 and 2 by utilizing the Biological Opinion Checklist to identify if they need to amend their existing regulations to meet the Biological Opinion’s criteria.

Conducting the assessment and preparing a habitat mitigation plan are explained in more detail in Regional Guidance for Floodplain Habitat Assessment and Mitigation (see Appendix A).

A background on how floodplain development can affect natural habitats is included in Appendix C.


Publication Date: November 2013

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