Whatcom County Council August meeting roundup


The latest news from August Whatcom County Council meetings.

45 Snohomish County Jail beds for $1.2 million

Council authorized in a 6-1 vote, with councilmember Ben Elenbaas opposed, to enter into an interlocal agreement with Snohomish County for use of up to 45 Snohomish County Jail beds. Whatcom County will pay $1.2 million to have the beds available when Whatcom County Jail reaches full capacity through December 31, 2023.

Whatcom County Jail has a total operational capacity of 362 beds, according Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) data, with the jail holding 212 and work center 150. As of August 29, WCSO had 329 people under its supervision. 

Flood vulnerability and risk assessment project

Council authorized a $100,000 contract with the Environmental Science Associates (ESA), an environmental consulting firm in Seattle, to implement a coastal and riverine compound flood vulnerability and risk assessment project. 

The project will assess sea level rise impacts along the county’s coastal shoreline and lower Nooksack River shorelines, according to the memorandum. It will provide a high-resolution assessment of vulnerability and risk throughout the project area to inform planning and preparedness efforts, including land use regulations, natural hazard planning and public infrastructure planning.

“ESA has significant and valuable experience working on these types of projects and will provide significant value to this effort,” the memorandum states.

Affordable housing land bought for $1.25 million 

Council authorized to support Kulshan Community Land Trust’s buying of an 8-acre parcel at 2039 Thornton Street in Ferndale for affordable housing. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money will be used to fund the purchase, and funding may not exceed $1.25 million, according to the memorandum.

The site is expected to accommodate more than 50 affordable homes, with a mix of affordable homeownership opportunities and rental apartments. The memorandum says the project aligns with the county’s and small cities’ efforts to expand affordable housing outside of Bellingham.

“The need for affordable homes far outstrips supply in Whatcom County, particularly at low and moderate-income levels,” the memorandum reads.

Rural broadband construction project

Council unanimously approved an interlocal grant agreement with the Port of Bellingham to support a rural broadband project in east Whatcom County, in the amount of $2 million. Funding will come out of the county’s public utilities improvement fund.

The construction project will upgrade broadband infrastructure by building fiber to the premises (FTTP) in two locations, east of the town of Nooksack and along the northern portion of Mosquito Lake Road.


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