Hazard Mitigation Assistance

One way to reduce flood risks is to work with willing landowners in flood-prone areas to either buy their property or elevate their homes. The Hazard Mitigation Assistance (HMA) Grants Program uses Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to reduce the risk of future flood damage to structures in flood-prone areas. Grant funds can be used by Whatcom County and its small cities to purchase flood-damaged properties that are most likely to be repeatedly flooded or help homeowners elevate and floodproof their homes.

Program Benefits

  • Reduces the risk of future flood damage to private property
  • Helps people live in safer locations
  • Reduces taxpayer burdens (e.g., National Flood Insurance Program subsidies, local jurisdiction infrastructure repairs)
  • Creates more places where the river can safely flood
  • Provides areas for salmon habitat restoration and agriculture

Contact Us

  1. Deb Johnson, PE


    Project Engineer
    (360) 778-6288
    djohnson@co.whatcom.wa.us

    322 North Commercial Street, Suite 120
    Bellingham, Washington 98225

Elevating a home above the 100-year flood water level to mitigate future flood hazards.

FEMA elevation graphic

2021 - 2022 Activities

After the November 2021 floods, the Whatcom County River and Flood Division worked with the small cities of Everson, Ferndale, and Sumas   to identify and prioritize flood-damaged properties for mitigation assistance within unincorporated (outside city limits) and incorporated (inside city limits) Whatcom County. These properties have a high risk of repeated flooding.

In February 2022, River and Flood sent letters to over 700 property owners in this target area  inviting them to respond with a notice of voluntary interest (NOVI) in either buyout or elevation assistance. Over 100 property owners responded. River and Flood staff have been working with Tetra Tech consulting staff  to review these properties, evaluate their eligibility, and submit FEMA HMA grant applications for acquisition (buyout) or elevation funding through the Washington Emergency Management Division. There are several grant programs under FEMA HMA for which Whatcom County (and its small cities) are eligible to apply for and can be used for buyouts and elevations of flood-prone properties. These grant programs include the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Building Resilient Infrastructure & Communities Program (BRIC), and Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA). (hyperlink to)

In August  2022, Whatcom County sent letters to over 100 additional property owners in other target unincorporated areas for mitigation assistance.     Additional flood-prone properties not included in the first two rounds of letters will continue to be added to the list for review and evaluation for grant funding.

The FEMA HMA grant application process for buyouts and elevations can take up to a year after the grant application is submitted. The process to secure grant funding and purchase a home through the buyout program may take up to a few years to complete. Whatcom County is working with Washington State to expedite the process as much as possible. 

Grant Funding Timeline

  • April 2022– A Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) application for $16.5 million was submitted for 24 acquisition properties ($13 million) and 17 elevation properties ($3.5 million). These properties were either substantially damaged by floods or met FEMA’s precalculated thresholds for cost-effectiveness. This was the first opportunity for grant funding following the November 2021 floods.
  • August 2022 – A second HMGP application for $12 million was submitted for 19 acquisition properties ($9 million) and 12 elevation properties ($3 million). Some of these properties require a Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) to see if they meet grant criteria for buyout or elevation assistance.  
  • Fall/Winter 2022 – Additional grant funding opportunities are expected this fall and winter including FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program. The River and Flood Division will continue to apply for hazard mitigation funding as grant opportunities become available. 

For more information