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Ferndale is considering rerouting Ferndale Road through Pioneer Park

Looking east across Ferndale Road (near Cherry Street) and the Nooksack River as the river was flowing at just below 21 feet. Hovander Homestead Park is flooded in the distance (February 2, 2020). Photo: Whatcom News

FERNDALE, Wash. — The current levee system on the Nooksack River does not provide reliable flood protection to critical infrastructure for Ferndale according to the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District (FCZD). Plans to make improvements included removing the section of Ferndale Road that runs between Pioneer Park and the Nooksack River and rerouting that traffic elsewhere.

Currently, the levee is adjacent to the Nooksack River with the roadway immediately behind it. In some locations, the riverward slope of the levee is over-steepened and the levee geometry does not meet the USACE’s minimum crest width and side slope standards. Along much of the levee, there is little to no riparian vegetation or habitat structure. The levee is used informally as a trail and sloughing of the levee material results as people climb the steepened backslope up to the levee crest.Ferndale Levee Improvement Project Final Report (May 13, 2022)

The section of the Ferndale Levee between Main Street and Cherry Street was found not to be in need of improvement.

Rerouting alternatives overview presented in the Ferndale Levee Improvement Project Final Report (May 13, 2022)

An option identified as Alternative C was removed from the list of viable options during initial discussions between Whatcom County and City of Ferndale staff. This option used 1-way roads as detailed in the graphic below.

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Alternative D, leaving the road in place, would still require installing slope protection, riparian planting, roadway improvements, stormwater management, landscaping and the installation of a floodwall.

The estimated construction costs for the remaining 4 alternatives are as follows.

AlternativeDescriptionEst. Cost
in millions
AConnect to south end of 2nd Avenue$5.42
BConnect to south end of 1st Avenue$6.86
DLeave Ferndale Road on its current path$6.57
EConnect to south end of 2nd Avenue after going around the sportsplex$8.65

A staff report for the upcoming regular Ferndale City Council meeting on Monday, July 18th, includes a recommendation for Alternative E.

Site plan for Alternative E (Source: City of Ferndale)

Flood impacts during the 2021 mid-November flooding occurred primarily north of Main Street on both sides of the Nooksack River.

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Overall project boundaries include the Ferndale Levee (between Main Street and the water treatment plant), Ferndale water treatment plant Levee (from the WTP to south of Ulrich Road) and the Sigurdson Levee (south of the WTP Levee). The Ferndale levee system provides protection for water and wastewater treatment plants, farms and residences in the floodplain south of Main Street.

Ferndale Levee Improvements Project boundaries (Source: Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District)

Initial work included field surveys in the fall and winter of 2020/2021 and evaluating design alternatives. A preferred alternative will be selected summer 2022 with a 60% complete design expected in 2023. The construction schedule has not yet been determined. 

A Floodplains by Design grant through the Washington State Department of Ecology is providing the majority of the funding for this project.


  1. Olga Pietrantonio July 16, 2022

    I really hope this doesn’t get done. That’s just taking away more of our precious lands and Pioneer Park is a landmark. It would be a terrible shame to do that. I am sure there are other ways to reroute traffic. And really?!?! Heavy traffic? Waiting 5 or 6 min is not heavy traffic. This is so unreasonable. Don’t do it!!!

  2. L. Burton July 16, 2022

    This reroute proposal is definitely needed. Not only in anticipation of future flooding which is inevitable as climate change accelerates, but also to avoid tragic accidents like the one that claimed two lives when their car flipped into the river in 2021 from excessive speed around the tight corner on Cherry and Ferndale Roads. It is only a matter of when, not if, a pedestrian will be injured or killed by motorists who repeatedly like to take that corner at very high speeds. Pioneer Park will be better served by not having the increasing traffic load threatening its position on the river banks. Ferndale is growing rapidly and these measures are forward thinking.

  3. Renee July 16, 2022

    Seems like alt A would be the best option. Alt B comes too close to the playground, Pioneer park, potentially ruin the old Pioneer playground, and would disrupt/ impact the community and senior center parking lot. Alt D just sounds lazy. And Alt E would cost far too much for every one’s wallets.

  4. Tara July 17, 2022

    Pioneer Park and Star Park are treasured parts of our community! Didn’t we also just build a new picnic shelter there? Please don’t do anything that negatively affects their enjoyment or safety.

  5. Kevin July 17, 2022

    I would prefer to upgrade the existing Ferndale Rd. (Option D). Using any of the routes through the park increases risk by bringing traffic closer to people. Instead of destroying the park, let’s close that section of Ferndale rd and route traffic via Douglas, Imhoff and Ulrich back to the southern section of Ferndale Rd.

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