Northwest NEWS

March 25, 2002

Front Page

Rule amendment would allow homes to be rebuilt in floodplain

The state Legislature recently changed state law to allow homeowners to repair or reconstruct homes in floodways, and now the Department of Ecology is updating its criteria for implementing that law.
   A public-comment period on Ecology's proposal will last from March 20 through April 25, with public hearings scheduled for April 17 in Everett and April 18 in Yakima.
   Since 1968, it has been illegal to construct new homes inside "floodways," which is the area around a stream that transports the majority of the water during a flood. Until 1999, that law also prevented substantial repairs, reconstruction or improvements on existing homes located in floodways.
   Instead, homeowners were expected to rebuild their homes farther away from the stream. But in a few cases, the property has not been large enough to allow long-time homes to be reconstructed outside the floodway.
   In 1999, the Legislature amended the law to allow "grandfathered" houses to be rebuilt in floodways when there are no other options on that piece of property. The change in the law means Ecology must amend its floodplain-management regulations to clarify how a home can qualify to be reconstructed or substantially repaired.
   The department formed an advisory group to help develop the proposed rule amendment.
   Specifically, it would allow:
   The repair or replacement of a substantially damaged farmhouse residence in the floodway if no other suitable sit is available.
   The repair or replacement of a substantially damaged non-farmhouse residence in the floodway if no other suitable site is available, provided that other state and federal laws governing construction or repair are adhered to and the structure is not located in an area of deep and/or fast-flowing water during a flood.
   Gordon White, who manages Ecology's shorelands program, noted that the regulation would provide greater latitude for farmhouses than for other types of homes.
   "Rebuilding homes in flood-hazard areas is generally not a good idea, but sometimes farmers have a critical business need to have their homes near other farm operations and they have no choice but to rebuild in the same place," White said.
   Two public hearings are scheduled to take public comment on the proposal:
   Everett on April 17, starting at 6:30 p.m. in Walter Hall, 1226 W. Casino Rd.
   Yakima on April 18, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel, 1507 N. 1st St.
   The proposed rule and related information can be downloaded from the Internet at or may be obtained by contacting Scott McKinney at (360) 407-7297 or
   Written comments must be submitted or postmarked by 5 p.m. on April 25 to Scott McKinney, SEA Program, Department of Ecology, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA, 98504-7600.