In 1968, the U.S. Congress passed the National Flood Insurance Act, which established the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP was broadened and modified with the passage of the Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 which required structures built in a 100-year floodplain to carry flood insurance coverage as a condition for receiving federal aid or federally insured loans. The Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 fine-tuned many aspects of the NFIP through the creation of the Community Rating System (CRS).


The NFIP is a federal program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and makes Federally-backed flood insurance available in communities that adopt and enforce floodplain management ordinances to help reduce future flood losses. The NFIP transfers costs of private property flood losses from tax payers to floodplain property owners through flood insurance premiums, provides financial aid to flood victims, encourages development away from flood-prone areas, and requires new and substantially improved structures to be constructed in a way that minimizes or prevents flood damage.

The NFIP, through partnerships with communities, the insurance industry, and the lending industry, helps reduce flood damage by nearly $800 million a year. Further, buildings constructed in compliance with NFIP building standards suffer 77 percent less damage annually than those not built in compliance. In addition, every $3 paid in flood insurance claims saves $1 in disaster assistance payments.

Monterey County joined the regular phase of the NFIP on January 30, 1984. Compliance and ongoing participation in the NFIP ensures that all County residents can purchase flood insurance.  The NFIP provides two types of insurance 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.

National Flood Insurance Program


The NFIP/CRS was implemented in 1990 as a program for recognizing and encouraging community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum NFIP standards. The National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 codified the CRS in the NFIP. Under the CRS, flood insurance premium rates are adjusted to reflect the reduced flood risk resulting from community activities that meet the three goals of the CRS: (1) reduce flood losses; (2) facilitate accurate insurance rating; and (3) promote the awareness of flood insurance. The CRS recognizes 18 creditable activities, organized under four categories: Public Information, Mapping and Regulations, Flood Damage Reduction, and Flood Preparedness. Accumulation of credit points results in the assignment of a CRS classification. There are a total of ten CRS classes. Class 1 requires the most credit points and gives the largest insurance premium reduction, while a community rated Class 10 receives no reduction in insurance premiums. Monterey County has been a voluntary participant in the CRS since October 1, 1991, and the County was upgraded to Class 5 on May 1, 2007. With the improved rating, buildings located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) receive a 25% discount for new or renewed NFIP policies. Buildings located outside the SFHA receive a 10% premium discount. The Class 5 rating provides annual savings of over $500,000 for Monterey County flood insurance policy holders. 


MCWRA operates and maintains drainage facilities in fourteen drainage maintenance zones and districts located throughout Monterey County. The drainage improvements consist of approximately fifty-seven miles of improved drainage way, eight pump stations, nine miles of river levees, two large earthen dams and numerous culverts, tide gates and concrete structures. Routine maintenance consists of ongoing removal of debris in drainage channels and pump stations, access roadway maintenance, and guardrail and fence maintenance, spraying for vegetation control, baiting for rodent control, sediment removal in drainage ways, timely repair of eroded banks, mechanical equipment and damaged facilities and ongoing preventive maintenance program. The maintenance program is administered by the MCWRA Chief Engineer of Operations and Maintenance, and consists of a full time ten member crew dedicated to the operation and maintenance of these facilities. Inspection of Agency facilities is performed on a regular schedule, and on a daily basis during storms. The Agency has heavy equipment to perform all of the debris and sediment removal, erosion repair work and access roadway maintenance.

Do not 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.  Additionally, the County has adopted and enforces regulations that prohibit dumping of material into ditches, streams, or other drainageways.  Please report any observations of the dumping of debris or other objects into streams, drainageways, or rivers to the Monterey County Environmental Health Division at (831) 755-4505 or the Monterey County Water Resources Agency at (831) 755-4860.

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


The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 and the National Flood Insurance Reform Act of 1994 mandate the purchase of flood insurance as a condition of Federal or Federally related financial assistance for acquisition and/or construction of buildings in the 100-year floodplain of any community participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The purchase of flood insurance on a voluntary basis is prudent even outside the 100-year floodplain. There is normally a 30-day waiting period before flood insurance goes into effect. The Acts prohibit Federal agency lenders from making, guaranteeing, or purchasing a loan secured by improved real estate or mobile home(s) in a 100-year floodplain, unless flood insurance has been purchased, and is maintained during the term of the loan. Federally regulated or insured lending institutions are required in all cases to notify the borrower when the building being used to secure a loan is in a 100-year floodplain. Contact Monterey County Water Resources Agency at 755-4860 in order to determine if your property is located within the 100-year floodplain in unincorporated Monterey County. The fee for the formal report is $84.

FLOOD SAFETY (Storm Preparedness) (top)

Before the Storm: Store Essential Supplies

Keep insurance policies, documents and other valuables in a safe place.
Store supplies at work, home, and car in handy locations:

√     First aid kit and essential medicines.
√     Food (packaged, dried, canned, or food for special diets) & can opener.
√     Keep some cash on hand. ATM machines may not be working.
√     Portable radio, flashlights and extra batteries (stored in plastic bag).
√     Store drinking water in closed, clean containers.
√     Allow one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days.

•Keep your car fueled
•Know safe routes from your home or office to high, safe ground.
•Keep sandbags, plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, and other emergency building materials for waterproofing.

During the Storm: Be Prepared

•  Avoid areas that are subject to sudden flooding.
•  Do not try to cross a flowing stream where water is above your knees.
•  Do not try to drive over a flooded road.
•  If your car stalls, abandon it immediately and seek higher ground.
•  Use the telephone only for emergency needs.
•  Be prepared for electricity, telephone, and water services to be interrupted.
•  Tune to local radio or television stations for emergency information.
•  If advised by local authorities to leave your home, evacuate to a safe area and leave a note telling where you are going.
•  Establish an out-of-state “family contact” so that friends and relatives will know who to call to get information about where you are.

After the Storm: Use Common Sense

•  Seek necessary medical aid from a hospital or clinic.
•  Do not visit disaster areas – you will be in the way and could be in danger.
•  Do not turn gas back on yourself. Rely on utility crews.
•  Before consuming any food or water, check for contamination.
•  Follow local instructions regarding the safety of drinking water. If in doubt, boil or purify water before drinking.
•  Do not handle live electrical equipment in wet areas.
•  Use a flashlight instead of candles or matches, to examine building damage.
•  Report downed or broken utilities to appropriate authorities.
•  Listen to your local radio or TV station for advice or instructions



In the late 1970's, Monterey County installed the first ALERT (Automated-Local-Evaluation-in-Real-Time) flood warning system. The System consists of self-reporting remote sensors, located throughout the County, that transmit rain and stream level data via radio to base station computers at County, State, and Federal offices, including the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) and the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services. Additionally ALERT data is sent through an Internet Protocol Concentrator to redundant computer databases that allow reliable access via the internet. This real time data allows for the earliest possible flood warnings and river flow forecasts.
Currently, the Monterey County ALERT system consists of 21 rain gages, 9 combination rain and stream gages, and 17 stream or reservoir/lagoon level sensors. In addition, monitors have access to ALERT networks, USGS stream gage information and National Weather Service data for the Central Coast and San Francisco Bay Region, including San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and San Benito Counties; increasing the County's ability to more accurately forecast potential flooding conditions within Monterey County.

The ALERT data access system was designed with redundancy in the communication paths, databases, and web servers used to access the real time data. A secure web based interface allows multiple operators to monitor the rainfall and stream conditions throughout the County simultaneously from any computer via the internet. This allows MCWRA ALERT Team members to monitor County wide hydrologic conditions 24 hours per day from home as required during storm events. Data received from the ALERT system is the basis for County flood related decisions, and it is used by the National Weather Service in Monterey and the California Nevada River Forecast Center in Sacramento for flood warnings. Other uses of ALERT data include summer-time Salinas River flow monitoring and climatological and rainfall distribution studies.

Large floods, such as the 100-year flood, may reach flood stage quickly. Only a short warning time may be possible.  KUSP (88.9 FM), KTOM (1380 AM), and KGO (810 AM) are the most reliable and clearly received radio stations that may communicate time sensitive information to the community in an emergency.  KSBW-TV and KSMS-TV are also key participants in the Media Emergency Preparedness Collaboration.


Regulations for floodplains in Monterey County are contained in Chapter 16.16 of Monterey County Code. Chapter 21.64 includes additional floodplain regulations for land use in the Carmel Valley floodplain. Development within the 100-year floodplain or within 200 feet of the riverbank may require a Use Permit from the Monterey County Planning and Building Inspection Department. As defined in County Code, development means any man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate, including but not limited to buildings or other structures, mining, dredging, filling, grading, paving, excavation, or drilling operations. Contact Code Enforcement through the Building Department at (831) 755-5027, to report illegal floodplain development. There are more restrictive regulations for development within the FEMA-defined floodway. Please contact Agency staff for additional information. 


To protect your property from flood damage, measures such as retrofitting, grading, and/or correcting local drainage problems may be necessary.  Such retrofitting techniques include: elevation of the home, relocating the home to higher ground, constructing floodwalls or berms, floodproofing, and protecting utilities.  In emergency situations, moving furniture or sandbagging may be appropriate.  Additional information on flood-fighting methods, erosion control techniques, and a list of civil engineers and contractors available for consultation and construction of preventative measures is available at the Agency.

Call (831) 755-4860 for flood protection assistance, historical flood data, site visits to review drainage, flood and sewer problems, and advice and assistance on retrofitting techniques.  For additional information, please visit the following websites:

MCWRA:  http://www.mcwra.co.monterey.ca.us         FEMA FloodSmart:  http://www.floodsmart.gov

A. Construct or modify retaining walls with proper drainage.
B. Construct berms to divert water flows.
C. Install debris fences or traps.
D. Install yard inlets to convey runoff to the street.
E. Construct on-site detention basins
F. Improve headwalls for water conveyance.
G. Floodproof retaining walls.
H. Floodproof entrances.
I. Add sump pump to drainage systems.
J. Construct terrace drain and plant slope to reduce erosion.
K. Plant slopes to reduce erosion and water flows.
L. Improve on-site grading and add french-drain.
M. Convert flood prone living space and replace with new story.
N. Elevate the lowest floor a minimum of 1 foot above the base flood elevation (residential).
O. Elevate the lowest floor a minimum of to the base flood elevation (non-residential).
P. Waterproof lower level.
Q. Extend the walls of the house upward and raise the lowest floor.

Sandbag Distribution and Distribution Information (top)

MCWRA is responsible for maintaining the County sandbag inventory and distribution to local fire districts in unincorporated areas of Monterey County. The local fire districts distribute the sandbags to the public, free of charge, for use in flood fighting measures only. The County has two mechanical sandbaggers and a supply of sand pre-staged at select locations. This inventory list is updated as required and maintained in the Monterey County Operational Area EOC.

Sandbag Distribution List Sand Stockpile Information (top)

If an existing building within the 100-year floodplain is substantially improved/damaged, it must be brought up to current County floodplain management standards. "Substantial Improvement" means any reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition, or other improvement to a structure, the total cost of which equals or exceeds 50% of the market value of the structure before the start of construction of the improvement. "Substantial Damage" means damage of any origin sustained by a structure whereby the cost of restoring the structure to its before-damaged condition would equal or exceed 50% of the market value of the structure before damage occurred.