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Buyouts have long been a tool for federal, state and local officials to encourage homeowners to retreat from flood-prone areas. But in the past, buyouts often occurred after major disasters, such as the Missouri River floods of 1993 or Hurricane Floyd in 1999, using investments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Washington is one of the rare states to have its own state-funded buyout and restoration program, one that is set up to remove development from flood-prone areas on an ongoing basis, not just as federal relief money becomes available in the wake of a massive disaster.
Working from lists selected by local partners, the state grant program, established in 2013, pours money into projects that have been identified as subject to persistent flooding. The projects it funds don’t just remove vulnerable residents, they enlist nature as an ally. By restoring floodplains to their natural state, they help to lessen the risk of flooding elsewhere.