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State partners with British Columbia on flooding response

Announcement comes after months of discussions and Nooksack flooding

By Julia Lerner Staff Reporter

Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans to develop a flooding prevention and response initiative with British Columbia Premier John Horgan. 

The announcement, released this afternoon, comes after months of discussions related to November and December’s Nooksack River flooding. 

“Nooksack River flooding is a constant threat to communities along the B.C.-WA border,” Inslee tweeted following the announcement Tuesday. “We must partner together … to create a bilateral initiative for flood response & prevention.” 

The floods, which displaced hundreds of families from Whatcom, resulted in billions of dollars in damage across British Columbia, as well as the evacuations of more than 14,000 people. 

“Flooding will continue to worsen in the face of population growth, development and climate change, and this challenge is bigger and more urgent than any level of government can solve on its own,” Inslee said in the announcement. “Long-term, sustainable solutions will require resources from all levels of government on both sides of our border, and we are committed to working together to leverage input and significant expertise from impacted communities.”

Planning for the response initiative will begin later this month, and will involve local and Tribal governments across the region. 

“There is tremendous expertise on both sides of the border,” Horgan said. “Our work will bring together the necessary resources and the relevant experts to help identify, evaluate and advance solutions so that all adjacent communities are better prepared for the inevitable impacts of extreme weather caused by climate change.”

Inslee and Horgan hope the initiative will support projects and programs, as well as identify funding sources, to support public infrastructure, farms, salmon health and local ecosystems impacted by flooding. 

“Ultimately, we must find solutions that protect communities upriver and downriver, farms, salmon and those who are disproportionately impacted by flooding,” Inslee tweeted Tuesday. 

Last week, the Washington State Legislature approved substantial funding for flood relief, including $2 million for Nooksack River flood mitigation, $2 million for the Nooksack Valley School District, $600k for disaster assistance to county farmers and $750k for staffing and technical support for flood planning. 

B.C., too, has budgeted significant funds for flood relief. Over the next three years, the province plans to spend $1.5 billion on recovery efforts. 

The joint commission will announce details of the flooding initiatives later this Spring.

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