Flood Protection

The information on this webpage is for informational purposes for properties located within or adjacent to the flood plain. Please take the time to read the information below, and if you have further questions, or would like additional information, a variety of contact information has been supplied at the end of this webpage.

FEMA Documents

City of Ashland Adopted Ordinances

The City of Ashland has adopted ordinance pertinent to floodplain development. In addition to the FEMA flood plains the City of Ashland in 1989 adopted their own flood plains for Ashland, Bear and Clay Creeks which provide, in some instances, additional area to the floodplain beyond the FEMA flood plains. 


Flood Protection Information 

The City of Ashland features several large streams and smaller tributaries that are susceptible to annual flooding events that pose threats to life and safety and cause significant property damage. Part of the Bear Creek Watershed, large streams include Ashland Creek and Bear Creek, while smaller tributary streams include, Clay Creek, Kitchen Creek, Hamilton Creek, Neil Creek, Tolman Creek, and Wrights Creek. The City of Ashland has approximately 200,000 acres of floodplain and nearly 330 individual parcels that are partially or entirely within the floodplain. Snow melt from the Siskiyou Mountain range contributes substantially to flooding, and ongoing development within the City continues to displace natural areas that have historically functioned as flood storage.

Recent Flooding Events

While some sort of seasonal flood-related damage occurs nearly every year, the flooding and associated landslide events of December 1996 and January 1997 represent the most recent significant flooding. On New Years Eve 1997, prolonged precipitation accompanied by an early snowmelt  caused many streams and creeks throughout the Bear Creek watershed to rise to 100-year flood levels, leading to flooding in both urban and rural areas.

Although the 1996/1997 flood represented a large-scale disaster, accounting for 4.5 million in damages, such an event is not unprecedented. In both 1964 and 1974 the flooding caused millions in damage state wide and many Oregonians lost their lives.

Causes of Flooding in the City of Ashland

Flooding occurs when weather patterns, geology, and hydrology combine to create conditions where stream waters flow outside of their usual course and ‘overspill’ beyond their banks.  In the City of Ashland the combination of these factors, augmented by ongoing development, create seasonal flooding conditions.  The City of Ashland spans a wide range of geologic regions that results in considerable elevation changes. Moving the southwest to northeast the elevation ranges from 3,452 above Lithia Park to 1,754 along Bear Creek. Outside of City limits to the south the elevation changes are even more significant reaching the highest point at Mount Ashland which is 7,533 above sea level and about seven air miles south of the City limits.  Mount Ashland receives about 65 inches of precipitation annually where as within the City of Ashland annual precipitation is approximately 20 inches. The Mount Ashland and surrounding mountain snow melt provides continuous water source throughout the year, and can contribute significantly to the development of flooding.

Flooding is most common from October through April, when storms from the Pacific Ocean bring rainfall to the area. Larger floods result from heavy rains that continue over the course of several days, augmented by snow melt at a time when soil is near saturation from previous rains. Frozen topsoil can also contribute to the frequency of floods.

Riverine, flash, shallow area and urban flooding are the primary flood types that affect the City of Ashland. Riverine or over-bank flooding is the natural process which adds sediment and nutrients to fertile floodplain areas. Flash floods are characterized as a sudden, localized flood of great volume with short duration. Flash floods are typically caused by unusually heavy rain in a semiarid area. These can reach their peak volume in a matter of a few minutes and often carry large loads of mud and rock fragments. Shallow area flooding is best described as when 3 feet or less of water spreads across a broad area where no defined channel exists. Urban flooding results from the conversion of lands from open areas to parking lots and roads, both of which diminish the ability of the land to absorb rainfall.

Flood Insurance

The City of Ashland participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that makes available federally backed flood insurance for all structures, whether or not they are located within the floodplain. More than 25 percent of NFIP claims are filed by properties located outside of the 100-year floodplain, also known as the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). Following the purchase of flood insurance, NFIP imposes a 30-day waiting period, so residents should purchase insurance before the onset of the rainy season to ensure coverage during the flood season.

Membership within NFIP – and the availability of flood insurance to City of Ashland residents – requires the City to manage its floodplain in ways that meet or exceed standards set by FEMA.  NFIP insures buildings with two types of coverage: structural and contents. Structural coverage includes walls, floors, insulation, furnace and other items permanently attached to the structure.  Contents coverage may be purchased separately to cover the contents of an insurable building. Flood insurance also pays a portion of the costs of action taken to prevent flood damage.

Federal financial assistance requires the purchase of flood insurance for buildings located within the SFHA – a requirement that affects nearly all mortgages financed through commercial lending institutions. This mandatory requirement stipulates that structural coverage be purchased equal to the amount of the loan, or other financial assistance, for the maximum amount available, which is currently $250,000 for a single family residence. While mandatory flood insurance purchase requirements have been in effect for many years, not all lending institutions required flood insurance in the past. Today, however, most institutions are now requiring the flood insurance purchase, and some are reviewing all mortgage loans to determine whether flood insurance is required and should have been required in the past. Upon refinancing a loan, nearly all lending institutions will enforce the flood insurance requirement. It is the lender’s responsibility to check the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) to determine whether a structure is within the SFHA.

Mandatory flood insurance purchase requirement does not apply to loans or financial assistance for items that are not eligible for flood insurance coverage, such as vehicles, business expenses, landscaping and vacant lots. The requirement also does not apply to loans for structure not located in a SFHA, even though a portion of the lot may be within SFHA. Persons located within SFHAs who received disaster assistance after September 23, 1994 for flood losses to real or personal property must purchase and maintain flood insurance coverage, otherwise future disaster assistance will be denied. 

Floodplain Understanding and Regulation

Maintaining the flow capacity in streams that cross properties requires cooperation and assistance to prevent flooding and bank erosion. The following are some suggestions and information for understanding the ways that flood plains function and how the City regulates the floodplain in order to protect property and lives, while affording the City of Ashland citizens to obtain floodplain insurance.

Do no dump or throw anything into ditches or streams: A plugged channel cannot carry water, and when it rains the excess water must go somewhere. Trash and vegetation dumped into a stream degrades water quality of both the stream itself and its receiving waters, and every piece of trash contributes to flooding. The City of Ashland has adopted and enforces regulations that prohibit the illegal dumping of material, including material dumped into ditches, streams or other drainage ways. Please report any observations of dumping of debris or other objects into streams, drainage ways to the City of Ashland Code Compliance Division at (541) 488-5305.

Debris, trash, loose branches and vegetation: Trash, brush and other debris can impede the flow of water in stream channels. Do not remove vegetation that is actively growing on a stream bank.  Streams side vegetation is tightly regulated by local, state and federal regulations. Before undertaking any removal of stream side vegetation, contact the City of Ashland Planning Department at (541) 488-5305 and the Division of State Lands at (503) 378-3805. Please report any observations of clearing of vegetation or trees on stream banks to the City of Ashland Code Compliance Division at (541) 488-5305. 

Obtain a floodplain development permit and / or building permit, if required: To minimize damage to structures during flood events, the City of Ashland requires all new construction in the flood plain to be anchored against movement of floodwaters, resistant to flood forces, constructed of flood-resistant materials and flood-proofed or elevated so that the first floor of living space, as well as all mechanical services, are at least two foot above the flood elevation. Where no specific elevation exists, new construction must be constructed to the standards described in AMC 18.62.050. Habitable basements are not permitted for new or existing structures or additions within the floodplain corridor.  The elevation of the finished lowest habitable floor shall be certified to the City of Ashland by an engineer or surveyor prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the structure.  These standards apply to new structures and to substantial improvements of existing structures. The City of Ashland defines a substantial improvement any repair, reconstruction, or improvement of a structure, the cost of which equals or exceeds fifty percent (50%) of the market value of the structure either, before the improvement or repair is started; or,  if the structure has been damaged and is being restored, before the damage occurred. For the purpose of this definition, "substantial improvement" is considered to occur when the first alteration of any wall, ceiling, floor, or other structural part of the building commences, whether or not that alteration affects the external dimensions of the structure.

Additionally, most other types of development within the floodplain also require a floodplain development permit, such as grading, cut and fill, installation of riprap and other bank stabilization techniques.

Staff is available to make site visits to review flooding problems, drainage and sewer problems. For further information contact the City of Ashland Building Division at (541) 488-5305.

Recognize the natural and beneficial functions of flood plains to help reduce flooding: Flood plains are a natural component of the City of Ashland environment. Understanding and protecting the natural functions of the flood plains helps reduce flood damage and protect resources. When flooding spreads out across the floodplain, its energy is dissipated, which results in lower flood flows downstream, reduced erosion of the stream bank and channel, deposition of sediments higher in the watershed and improved groundwater recharge. Flood plains are scenic, valued wildlife habitat and suitable for farming. Poorly planned development in flood plains can lead to stream bank erosion loss of valuable property, increased risk of flooding to downstream properties and degradation of water quality.  

Reduce risk of damage to homes: Practical and cost-effective methods for reducing or eliminating the risk of flooding are available to property owners whose homes have experience damage from flooding in the past, or may experience damage in the future. Such techniques include elevation of the home, relocating the home to higher ground, flood-proofing and protecting utilities.  For further information, contact the City of Ashland Planning Department at (541) 488-5305 and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Region X at (425) 487-4600.

During times of flooding, homes that have not been retrofitted can be protected during emergencies by the installation of sandbags. For further information about sandbags and the locations of sites where sandbags are available during flooding, contact the City of Ashland at (541) 552-2490, or by visiting the website at: http://www.ashland.or.us

City of Ashland Floodplain Information Services: the City of Ashland can determine the relationship of a particular property to the floodplain, including: 1) whether the property is located within the Special Flood Hazard Area; 2) Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) Zone for the property; 3) Base Flood Elevation for property, if available; and 4) whether the property is located within the Floodway. Contact the City of Ashland Planning Department at (541) 488-5305 for further information. 

Flood Safety Tips

The City of Ashland Emergency Operations Center has flood warning information available that can be accessed by calling them at (541)552-2490, or by tuning into 1700 AM. The website includes information about sandbag location (when necessary) and ways to contact and listen to the National Weather Service.

People may also call the Jackson County Civil Emergency Hotline at (541) 776-7339.

Following is a list of important considerations that should be followed during times of flooding:

Prepare an evacuation plan: Before floodwaters hit, develop an evacuation plan among all members of a household that includes a meeting place outside of the house, as well as an escape route our to the floodplain and away from floodwaters.

Do not walk through flowing water: Drowning is the number one cause of flood related deaths, mostly during flash floods.  Currents can be deceptive; six inches of moving water can knock a person off of their feet.  If you walk in standing water use a pole or a stick to ensure that the ground is still there.

Do not drive through flooded areas: More people drown in their cars than anywhere else.  Don’t drive around road barriers: the road or bridge may be washed out.

Stay away from power lines and electrical wires: The number two cause of flood related deaths after drowning is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through water. Report downed power lines to the City of Ashland Electric Department.

Shut off gas and electricity and move valuable contents to higher ground: Be prepared in advance with a detailed checklist because warning of an impending flood may provide little time for preparation prior to evacuation.

Look out for animals, especially snakes: Small animals that have been flooded from their homes may seek shelter in your home. Use a pole or stick to turn things over and to scare off animals.

Look before you walk: After a flood, the ground floors are covered with debris including broken glass and nails.  Floor and stairs that have been covered with water can become very slippery.

Be alert for gas leaks: Use a flashlight to inspect for damage.  Don’t smoke or use candles, lanterns or other open flames unless you know that the gas has been turned off and the area has been ventilated.

Important Contact Information:

1)         City of Ashland Community Development Department
            Phone: (541) 488-5305
            Email: planning@ashland.or.us    

2)         Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
            Phone: (425) 487-4600
            Web: http://www.fema.gov/hazard/flood/index.shtm  

3)         Jackson County Emergency Management 
            Phone: (541) 776-7206
            Web: http://www.co.jackson.or.us

4)         Jackson County Public Library - Ashland Branch (Houses floodplain publications and
            other flood information.
            Phone: (541) 774-6996 

5)         1700 AM – Ashland’s Emergency Radio Frequency 

6)         Division of State Lands (DSL)
            Phone: (503) 378-3805
            Web: http://statelands.dsl.state.or.us  

7)         Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW)
            Phone: (503) 872-5268
            Web: http://www.dfw.state.or.us  

8)         Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF)
            Phone: (503) 945-7200
            Web: http://www.odf.state.or.us 

9)         U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
            Phone: (502) 808-4510


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