Floodplains by Design

What is Floodplains by Design?

Floodplains by Design is a public-private partnership working to reduce flood risk, restore habitat, and create naturally resilient communities along Washington’s major rivers . Funding from Washington State supports large-scale, multiple-benefit projects through the Department of Ecology’s Floodplains by Design grant program. The Floodplains by Design approach is locally-driven and based on collaboration and partnership to find solutions that work for all. It’s a new way to think about floodplains and how to manage them.

Visit the Floodplains by Design website to learn more.  Watch this short video highlighting Floodplains by Design projects across the state.  

The Nooksack River: Floodplains that Work 

The Nooksack River: Floodplains that Work is the name of our community-driven Floodplains by Design approach to managing the Nooksack River floodplain. This work is being funded and completed in phases. The Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District is leading this effort, bringing diverse interests together to find mutually agreeable solutions that work for the community and achieve project goals to:

  • Reduce flood hazards
  • Improve habitat 
  • Increase the resiliency of our rural communities
  • Support a viable agricultural economy  


Whatcom County is seeking $12.4 million in funding for the Nooksack River: Floodplains that Work Phase 3 in the 2023-2025 Washington State Floodplains by Design (FbD) budget. The county was ranked first across the state for its Phase 3 proposal, and funding confirmation will occur after the 2023 legislative session. 

Whatcom County received $6.3 million in funding for Phase 2 in the 2021-2023 FbD budget and $6 million in funding for Phase 1 in the 2019-2023 FbD budget. The county is providing an additional $3.1 million (20%) in local match from the Flood Control Zone District for Phases 1 and 2 combined.   

Phase 3 will build on work currently underway in Phases 1 and 2. The Floodplains by Design grant funding allows the county to develop and implement integrated floodplain management projects at a scale that is not possible with local funding alone.

Phase 1

Phase 1 Project Accomplishments 2019-2023

  • Ferndale Levee Improvement Project – Develop the preliminary design for this project to improve riparian habitat and reduce flood hazards for the City of Ferndale water and wastewater treatment plants, the Public Utility No. 1 of Whatcom County water treatment facility, residential neighborhoods, parks, and farmland.
  • Lynden Levee Rehabilitation & Channel Realignment – Complete the final design and construction on a project that improves fish habitat and reduces flood hazards for the City of Lynden wastewater treatment plant, farmland, and public roadways.
  • Phase 1 Floodplain Land Acquisitions – Reduce flood hazards for communities, reduce repetitive levee repair costs, and restore habitat-forming processes.
  • Jones Creek Debris Flow Risk Reduction – Purchase land in the Acme community for debris flow mitigation to restore habitat-forming process and protect life, a school, homes, and farmland. 
  • Glacier-Gallup Creeks Interim Levee Repair and Alluvial Fan Restoration Project - Gather community input and develop preferred alternatives for both the interim levee repair and the long-term alluvial fan restoration projects. Advance design and permitting for the interim levee repair project to 90% complete.  
  • Agricultural Integration – Provide support for farmers and the agricultural community through the Floodplain Integrated Planning Process.

Phase 2

Phase 2 Project Accomplishments 2021-2025

  • Ferndale Levee Improvement Project - Complete final design. 
  • Jones Creek Debris Flow Risk Reduction - Complete final design, permitting, and construction.
  • Glacier-Gallup Creeks Interim Levee Repair & Alluvial Fan Restoration Project - Complete final design, permitting, and construction of the interim levee repair project. Advance design of the long-term restoration project. 
  • South Fork Nooksack River Fish Camp Integrated Flood & Fish Project - Complete final design, permitting, and log acquisition for construction of the Fish Camp area 1 project. 
  • Floodplain Land Acquisition - Acquire key lands for future floodplain reconnection, habitat restoration, and flood risk reduction.
  • Agricultural Integration, Tribal Capacity Building, and City Flood Resiliency - Support tribal and stakeholder representation in the Floodplain Integrated Planning (FLIP) process. 
  • Floodplain Integrated Planning (FLIP) Early Action Projects - Generate early action projects for implementation as an outcome of the FLIP reach planning process. 

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