Critical Areas

Pre-Application Meetings
Prior to any application, a pre-application meeting is required with an Environmental and Natural Resources Planner. Please contact Yakima County Public Services Planning Division at 509-574-2300 to arrange a meeting.
Yakima Valley Wildflowers
Flood Hazard Areas (YCC Title 16C.05)
This chapter holds the county’s Flood Hazard regulations that are necessary for County residents to be eligible for flood insurance. It meets the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) floodplain requirements and is administered by the Building Official through a separate permit process. Flood Hazard Areas consist of flood plains and floodways. Flood plains are land areas adjoining a river, stream, watercourse or lake which have been determined likely to flood. The term floodplain is synonymous with the 100-year floodplain and means the land area susceptible to inundation with a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year (YCC 16C.02.210).

Floodway means the regular channel of a river, stream, or other watercourse, plus the adjacent land areas that must be reserved in order to discharge the base flood without cumulatively increasing the water surface elevation more than one foot (YCC 16C.02.220). Further information regarding these areas can be found by visiting the Municipal Research Service Center of Washington (MRSC) website.

Fish & Wildlife Habitat & the Stream Corridor System (YCC Title 16C.06)
This is the most complex of the critical areas because habitat can come in many forms, and because it deals with complex river systems and biological systems. Fish and Wildlife Habitat in Yakima County can generally be thought of as either aquatic habitat or riparian habitat; collectively known as Hydrologically Related Critical Areas (HRCAs). To maintain viable populations of fish and wildlife species, there must be adequate environmental conditions for reproduction, foraging, resting, cover, and dispersal of animals at a variety of scales across the landscape.

Key factors affecting habitat quality include fragmentation, the presence of essential resources such as food, water, nest building materials, the complexity of the environment, and the presence or absence of predator species and diseases. As a method of linking large habitat areas, migration corridors offer a means by which to connect publicly protected lands and other intact habitat areas. The stream corridors system offers a natural system of such linkages. The CAO establishes protection measures for HRCAs including both aquatic habitat and riparian habitat. YCC Title 16C.06.05 describes the functional properties of HRCAs. The bulk of the chapter provides the development standards for projects within HRCAs.
Wetlands (YCC Title 16C.07)

Wetlands are those areas inundated or saturated by Water Resources Division or groundwater at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and under normal circumstances does support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas (YCC 16C.02.425). Wetlands provide important functions to the environment, such as nutrient and sediment retention, floodwater storage, groundwater recharge, and habitat for fish and wildlife. Development near wetlands in Yakima County is subject to buffers of undisturbed area, varying in width and measured from the wetland’s edge, to assure minimal impacts to the wetland and its functions. The county relies on the Fish and Wildlife Habitat protection measures in Chapter 6 to protect wetlands. Further information on wetlands can be found at the Department of Ecology website.

Geologically Hazardous Areas (YCC Title 16C.08)
Geologically Hazardous Areas include those areas susceptible to erosion, sliding, earthquake, or other geological events. They pose a threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Yakima County when incompatible development is sited in area of significant hazard. In addition to the development standards within the CAO, the County relies on the International Building Code for addressing several of the many geologic hazard types.

Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (YCC Title 16C.09)
Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (CARA’s) are those areas with a critical recharging effect on aquifers used for potable water, or areas where a drinking aquifer is vulnerable to contamination that would affect the potability of the water (YCC 16C.09.01(1)). The County relies on other regulatory programs, noted below, rather than establishing new review processes. Further information regarding CARA’s can be found by visiting the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) website.

Upland Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (YCC Title 16C.11)
Upland Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas are those areas where land is managed for maintaining species in suitable habitats within their natural geographic distribution so that isolated subpopulations are not created. The intent of the UWHCA is to classify seasonal ranges and habitat elements with which federal and state listed endangered, threatened and sensitive species have a primary association and which, if altered, may reduce the likelihood that the species will maintain and reproduce over the long term.

Upland Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (YCC Title 16C.11)
The Upland Wildlife Habitat Conservation Areas (UWHCA’s) are lands managed to maintain species within their natural geographic ranges and to avoid creating isolated islands of habitat. The intent of the UWHCA chapter is to protect and conserve natural habitats of upland wildlife species, such as sage grouse and burrowing owls.

To maintain viable populations of upland wildlife species, there must be adequate environmental conditions for reproduction, foraging, resting, cover, and dispersal of animals at a variety of scales across the landscape. Key factors affecting habitat quality include fragmentation, the presence of essential resources such as food, water, and nest building materials, the complexity of the environment, and the presence or absence of predator species and diseases.

Wildlife corridors are a method of connecting large, publicly protected habitat areas in areas otherwise fragmented by development and human activity. Yakima County protects habitat for upland species and wildlife corridors using the Upland Wildlife Habitat Conservation Area and associated protection measures.