Officials in British Columbia and Washington state have announced a bilateral initiative to address flooding caused by the Nooksack River, which runs between the Canadian province and the US state.
Under the new transboundary initiative, both BC and Washington state will collaborate on the design of flood mitigation projects and programs, as well as identify funding for these projects. An official release from the BC government added that the governments’ initiative will build upon local efforts on both sides of the border, and aim to protect “public infrastructure, farms, salmon and related ecosystems - as well as communities both upriver and downriver, particularly those disproportionately impacted by flooding.”
“Washington state and British Columbia have a unique role to play in addressing the urgent challenge of Nooksack River flooding,” said Washington state Governor Jay Inslee. “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 noted that long-term, sustainable solutions to the problem “will require resources from all levels of government on both sides” of the border, and that Washington state is committed to working together to leverage input and expertise from the affected communities.
“We are proud to co-ordinate with our Washington neighbors on devastating flooding from the Nooksack watershed,” said BC Premier John Horgan. “There is tremendous expertise on both sides of the border and 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.”
The new US-Canadian initiative comes after a catastrophic flood event in November 2021 which displaced some 500 people in Whatcom County, WA and forced the evacuation of 14,000 BC residents. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), flood damage in BC led to estimated insured damages of CA$515 million – the province’s costliest disaster on record.
Initial engagement and process planning for the joint flood mitigation projects begin this month, a release said. Both governments will work with First Nations, Tribal and local governments, and stakeholders to identify areas that need cooperative work. BC and Washington state will later announce details of the transboundary flooding initiative this spring.
Also this coming spring, a Canadian government task force – composed of officials from the federal, provincial, and territorial ministers, as well as IBC representatives – is expected to release its final report on a new national flood insurance program.