Finding solutions for the Chehalis River Basin


Flooding is the most costly
natural disaster in Washington. In the last 30 years, the Chehalis Basin has endured five of the most catastrophic floods in its history. The basin is home to 140,000 people. It’s vibrant agricultural community
feed greater western Washington. It is also home to a vital link of I-5, connecting commerce and transit between Washington and Oregon. During the devastating 2007 rains, flood waters inundated the basin, displacing families, destroying farms
and shutting down I-5. The Chehalis is also one of the only basins where salmon are not listed as an endangered species. And, it has the most diverse population
of amphibians in the entire state. However, these species are at risk. The community came together to address flood damage and habitat problems basin-wide. This has already led to
new flood-proofing and farm pads, updated bridges and culverts, and improved roads to ensure access to important resources–like hospitals–during floods. Work is taking place across the basin. However, there is still a ton to do. If we don’t act to prevent flood damage
in the Chehalis River Basin, it could cost $3.5 billion over the next century. The risk of doing nothing threatens the environment, local community and our state economy. Ecology and our partners are evaluating options to address these problems on a large scale. The different proposals we’re studying
are called “alternatives.” These alternatives combine several “actions” to
address problems in the entire basin. We’re evaluating the impacts, both positive and negative, to people and the environment. Let’s walk through the actions we’re looking at… The first large-scale action is to construct a dam on the upper Chehalis River near the town of Pe Ell. There are two types of dams being studied. One would retain water temporarily during major floods, and the other would hold water permanently. The second large-scale action would reduce flood damage upstream of the the city of Chehalis by relocating agricultural, residential and
commercial uses out of the floodplain. The floodplain would then be restored, and would act as a natural reservoir
to reduce downstream flooding. The third and fourth large-scale actions are: Raising the existing levee around
the Chehalis/Centralia airport And constructing walls and levees along I-5. The fifth and final large-scale action is to build a levee to protect low-lying portions of Aberdeen and Hoquiam from coastal flooding. We’re also evaluating several local-scale actions. One would protect key resources and
infrastructure in the communities. The second would flood-proof homes and businesses. The third would change the way communities
manage development in the floodplain. And the fourth would improve the
early warning system for floods. A final piece is an aggressive program
to restore aquatic habitat. This would go along with any of the
actions we just described. There is no slam dunk to solve flood damage and habitat problems in the Chehalis River Basin. None of these options stand alone. Now it’s your turn to help the Chehalis Basin. We published a draft of our study, called the programmatic
Environmental Impact Statement. It’s ready for your review, and comments. Please visit chehalisbasinstrategy.com to learn more and submit your feedback through the website.

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