After several articles appeared in Canadian press with inaccuracies regarding Whatcom County’s flood planning efforts, County Executive Satpal Sidhu issued a statement to address concerns which have arisen on both sides of the border.
“First of all, Whatcom County does not and has no plans to ‘send’ Nooksack floodwaters north to Canada. The Nooksack River naturally overflows its banks during high flow events near the town of Everson, and this water flows downhill through an old river valley north into the town of Sumas and across the border into Canada,” Executive Sidhu clarified. “This doesn’t happen during every flood, but it does happen during significant floods. Mother Nature and gravity have been sending water in this direction toward what used to be Lake Sumas for millennia. And communities on both sides of the border have been creating their land use plans for decades with this knowledge in mind.”
“The numerous studies of the Nooksack River over the course of many decades have made one thing clear: there are no simple or easy solutions. Every attempt to change the conditions or direction of where floodwaters go directly impacts someone else,” Executive Sidhu noted. “To be specific, any measures taken to reduce the natural overflow near Everson will have significant impacts on the people downstream. That does not mean that we should just let certain people take the brunt of the flood impacts, so that others avoid impacts. It means that solutions must be carefully studied and balanced so that we do our best to reduce the overall impacts on people living both upstream and downstream, or north or south of the border. An action that transfers risk without fully mitigating the increased risk is not a solution to the problem.”
Executive Sidhu also emphasized the need for continued cooperation with colleagues north of the border. “Whatcom County remains committed to working with our local, state, federal, and tribal partners to maintain an open dialogue and cross-border communication with our Canadian counterparts,” he remarked. “There is no single solution that will magically fix this problem. It’s only when all stakeholders work together that meaningful and comprehensive change can happen.”
Click here to read the full statement.
Spokesperson for the Whatcom County Executive’s Office
Special Programs Manager
Whatcom County Public Works