The City of Mukilteo began a public process to update the City’s Flood Hazard Controls, or floodplain regulations, in early 2020. This code amendment is part of a regular update of the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and Flood Insurance Study (FIS) completed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) can help reduce insurance premiums for property owners in the floodplain by adopting development regulations in the floodplain. FEMA required that updated regulations be adopted and effective by June 19, 2020.
The flood hazard area is also called the “floodplain” or “area of special flood hazard.”
What is the National Flood Insurance Program?
NFIP is a national program that provides affordable insurance and encourages communities to adopt and enforce flood hazard regulations. While participation is voluntary, the City’s participation in the NFIP program allows the City, property owners, businesses, and renters in flood-prone areas to obtain insurance and disaster assistance.
In Washington State, the Department of Ecology’s Floodplain Management Program provides technical assistance to local communities for flooding and development regulations and coordinates statewide floodplain management on behalf of FEMA.
Mukilteo’s role is to administer local floodplain development regulations to ensure that structures, buildings, and other site improvements are installed in a safe manner that will reasonably withstand flooding and limit the potential for additional damage during a flood.
The Flood Insurance Study (FIS) includes the flood risk data for various areas of Snohomish County, which is used to establish flood insurance rates and is the basis for updates to flood hazard regulations:
- Flood Insurance Study for Snohomish County, Washington, and Incorporated Areas, Volume 1
- Flood Insurance Study for Snohomish County, Washington, and Incorporated Areas, Volume 2
- Flood Insurance Study for Snohomish County, Washington, and Incorporated Areas, Volume 3
Where are Flood Hazard Areas Located in Mukilteo?
Areas in Mukilteo subject to NFIP generally include the waterfront (Lighthouse Park, Losvar, the existing ferry terminal), Naketa Beach, and portions of the BNSF railway. Mukilteo has been an NFIP community since February 19, 1986. Flood insurance is required for any property with a federally-regulated or -insured lender that is located in the floodplain.
What Does This Code Update Mean?
This update will ensure that Mukilteo and impacted property owners remain eligible for flood insurance and disaster assistance. FEMA requires the City to review of any physical change within the floodplain, which helps to ensure the safety of any development in the floodplain and document improvements for insurance purposes.
What are the Goals of the Flood Hazard Code Amendment?
Staff goals for the interim regulations were to improve the ease of use and clarity, simplify the permit process by creating levels of review, and to remove language that did not apply to Mukilteo. The biggest changes to the flood hazard controls are to:
- Establish a three-tier permit structure:
- Floodplain letter, for non-routine low-impact activities;
- Programmatic floodplain development permit, for routine low-impact activities;
- Floodplain development permit, for all other activities, including new structures, major maintenance, and any land-disturbing activity.
- Clarify application requirements and review process for each;
- Update the minimum design standards to comply with the current requirements of FEMA and Ecology;
- Remove extra language pertaining to floodways and zones that do not exist in Mukilteo or its Municipal Urban Growth Area (MUGA); and
- Remove language for processes or uses that would not be permitted in Mukilteo or its MUGA.
Goals for the permanent regulations are to seek public input and ensure that the regulations are clear, fair, and provide for a predictable review process.
Progress to Date and Next Steps
Due to COVID-19, the City was unable to complete the normal public hearing process in advance of the June 19, 2020 deadline. Interim regulations were adopted by City Council on June 1, 2020, and a public hearing on the interim regulations is scheduled with City Council on July 20, 2020.
The code amendment still needs to complete the regular code amendment process, including:
- August – September 2020: State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review;
- August – September 2020: Washington State Agency review;
- September 17, 2020: Public Hearing with the Mukilteo Planning Commission; and
- October – November 2020: Public Hearing with the Mukilteo City Council.
Staff also plans to communicate directly with impacted property owners to explain the updates, request feedback, and invite them to participate in the amendment process.
Future meeting agendas can be found on the City’s Meeting Agendas, Minutes, Audio & Video webpage.
Where Can I Learn More About Floodplain Management?
The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) provides an excellent overview of Flood Hazard Management Planning in Washington State, and includes links to additional resources.
How Can I Stay Informed?
Please email the Permit Center to become a “Party of Interest.” This means you will receive emails as the code amendment progresses. Property owners who are located in the floodplain will also be mailed notifications and be directly invited to participate.