Environmental Planning

State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)

SEPA is intended to provide information to agencies, applicants and the public to encourage the development of environmentally sound development proposals. The environmental review process involves the identification and evaluation of probably environmental impacts and the development of mitigation measures that will reduce adverse environmental impacts.

Some minor projects do not require environmental review, so the lead agency will first decide if environmental review is needed. If the proposed project is the type of project that has been “categorically exempt” from SEPA review, no further environmental review is needed. If the project is not exempt, the applicant will be asked to fill out an “environmental checklist” which identifies the proposal and its potential impacts on the environment. The lead agency will use the checklist to determine if the proposal is likely or unlikely to have a significant adverse environmental impact and will issue a determination.

Link to SEPA checklist

Shoreline Master Program

The State Shoreline Management Act requires counties and cities to update their Shoreline Management Programs (SMPs). SMPs govern activities on and near lakes, streams, and rivers. Most local SMPs date from the 1970s, and must be modernized to reflect today's conditions and address new state requirements.

Vancouver's comprehensively updated SMP was approved by the Washington State Department of Ecology and became effective Sept. 24, 2012.

Critical Areas Protection

Critical areas include fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, wetlands, frequently
flooded areas, critical aquifer recharge areas, and geologic hazard areas as defined by the Washington State Growth Management Act. Critical aquifer recharge areas are regulated under VMC 14.26. The others are regulated under VMC 20.740.

Flood Maps
Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) show the location of properties at risk of flooding and can help you make informed decisions about protecting your personal safety and your property. The FIRMs are also used to rate insurance policies and help determine where and how new structures and developments can be built.

For more information about flood insurance rates, frequently asked questions, policies and programs, including those involving newly mapped properties, are available for property owners on FEMA’s website.