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Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu
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Credit: Courtesy of Whatcom County Executive’s Office

After the flood: Whatcom County executive on disaster recovery

County governments are on the front lines of many important issues — from housing, to public health, elections, and disaster recovery.

Take Whatcom County, in northwest Washington.

Last year, towns near the Nooksack river were devastated by winter flooding, while the county was navigating its response to the Covid-19 pandemic and homelessness rose to the highest level in more than a decade.

FEMA has closed its temporary disaster recovery centers in Whatcom County; about $4.7 million in direct aid was recently distributed to the region, according to the Bellingham Herald.

The floods displaced many people from their homes.

Executive Sidhu says that 1,900 buildings, mostly homes, were impacted by these floods. He adds that Sumas and Everson residents were hit hardest.

The impact of the floods has been felt beyond Whatcom County. The flooding of the Nooksack hit Washington and Canadian residents. In Abbotsford, just across the border in British Columbia 14,000 people were displaced by flooding last year

"This is going to require coordination from the federal government, as well as the state government," Executive Sidhu said.

Both U.S. and Canadian agencies joined to work toward flood mitigation.

In November 1990, The Nooksack River International Task Force (NRITF) was established in response to the flooding that year.

Sidhu says the last time the task force was able to meet have was in 2019. He says the meeting was lowkey and that the group discussed what future flood mitigation needs might be. Those needs are pressing.

"Both sides have been engaged in the relief work," he said. "But we have this spring and summer to get prepared for the next flood season."

Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu sat down with Soundside on Thursday to talk about Whatcom County's disaster recovery and mitigation plans after floods devastated the area last November. He also addresses homelessness in the county, rising crime rates, and more.

Click on the audio above to Hear Soundside's full conversation with Executive Satpal Sidhu