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 N Commercial Street
    2nd Floor
    Bellingham, Washington 98225

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

FEMA elevation graphic

Hazard Mitigation Grants

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). 

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 $14 million was submitted to Washington State Emergency Management Division for 22 acquisition properties ($11 million) and 17 elevation properties ($3 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.
    • The State reviewed this application and submitted it to FEMA in September 2022 with a request to expedite the review process.  FEMA is actively reviewing the application Fall 2022.
    • Public comment period is November 10 - December 15, 2022 (see above).
    • FEMA's grant approval decision is expected in early 2023.
    • Elevation grant funding could be available by Spring 2023. 
    • Appraisals for acquisition properties will begin in Fall 2022 to facilitate moving forward with sales in 2023 after grant funds are approved. 
  • August 2022 – A second HMGP application for $13 million was submitted for 19 acquisition properties ($10 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.  
    • The State anticipates submitting this application to FEMA in November 2022.
    • Anticipated timeline for a FEMA grant approval decision is mid-2023 and award mid-late 2023.
  • The River and Flood Division will continue to apply for hazard mitigation funding as grant opportunities become available. 

For more information