National Flood Insurance Program

Flood at Gooseberry Point

Affordable Flood Insurance
Congress initiated the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968 to provide affordable flood insurance to citizens of communities that adopt approved flood management regulations. The Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), administers the NFIP. Flood insurance not available in communities that choose not to participate in the NFIP. Eligibility for state and federal post-flooding disaster assistance requires NFIP participation.

NFIP Requirements

To participate in the NFIP, Whatcom County communities must adopt development restrictions for flood-prone areas. Federal guidelines are established as local law in each Whatcom County community. The Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance, Title 17, sets development restrictions for floodplain areas in unincorporated county. Cities and the Lummi Nation administer their own NFIP programs.

Whatcom County Flood Review & Permit Conditions 

  • Building in a Flood Zone brochure (2021)
  • The River and Flood Division performs flood reviews and develops permit conditions for all development proposals within the floodplain.
  • The Planning and Development Services Department (PDS) routes permit applications to River and Flood staff.
  • The final permit issued by PDS incorporates conditions required to comply with Title 17.

Community Rating System 

  • The County participates in the Community Rating System (CRS) program administered by FEMA.
  • Participation in the CRS allows Whatcom County residents in unincorporated areas to obtain reduced flood insurance rates, currently at 20%.
  • Community flood reduction activities are rated by the FEMA system. 

 Flood reduction activities include:

  • Public education efforts
  • Land use zoning for floodplains
  • Stormwater management
  • Drainage systems maintenance
  • Early flood warning and flood hazard reduction projects