The Chehalis Basin Strategy is an ambitious collection of potential actions to address the challenges of extreme flooding and degraded habitat in the Chehalis River basin, the state’s second-largest river drainage system.
The basin-wide Strategy includes near- and long-term actions as well as small- and large-scale projects designed to achieve a two-pronged objective:
- Reduce flood-related damage while also restoring aquatic species habitat in the Chehalis River basin. The roots of the strategy go back several years.
Inaction too hefty a price
Not taking action in the basin could cost Washington as much as $3.5 billion during the next 100 years due to flood-related losses such as:
- Repairing or replacing damaged homes, businesses, and public infrastructure.
- Disruptions to local community, economic, and agricultural activities.
- Interruptions to state road and rail transportation corridors.
- Continued aquatic habitat degradation and loss.
Work on Chehalis Basin Strategy starts in 2014
The Strategy began under the Governor's direction in 2014, when the state executive convened the Chehalis Basin Work Group which recommended a path forward to:
- Reduce flood damages in the Chehalis River basin and restore aquatic species habitat in the near-term.
- Consider long-term, large-scale strategies to reduce flood damage while improving aquatic habitat.
As a non-voting work group member, we helped develop and review technical studies to support decisions. Most importantly, the work group helped form the Chehalis Basin Strategy. In December 2016, the work group:
- Recommended a 2017-19 work plan and budget.
- Advocated funding important near-term early action projects to improve habitat and reduce flood damage in the basin.
Environmental assessment examines potential strategy actions
To support the work group’s recommendations, we prepared a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in June 2017 to assess the effectiveness of four potential actions to reduce flood damages and restore aquatic habitat in the basin.
Each alternative — including a “no action” alternative — we assessed included a unique suite of actions, characterized by different combinations of small, localized actions as well as broader, basin-wide actions.
Legislative direction and support
The 2016 Washington Legislature passed House Bill 2856 that established a new implementation framework for reducing flood-related damages while restoring aquatic species habitat in the basin by:
Under the 2016 bill, state lawmakers defined that the Strategy:
- Will contain a detailed set of actions to reduce flood damage improve aquatic species habitat.
- Must include an implementation schedule and quantified measures for evaluating the success of implementing the Strategy.
- May be amended by the Chehalis Basin Board to include new scientific information and needed changes to achieve the Strategy's overall propose.
Aquatic Species Restoration Plan
Officials representing Washington state agencies, the Quinault Indian Nation , and Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation , and other stakeholder groups are developing an Aquatic Species Restoration Plan (ASRP) as part of the Chehalis Basin Strategy to restore the ecological health of the Chehalis basin.
The goal of the ASRP is to create a comprehensive restoration plan that improves and protects habitats, ecosystem processes, and populations of aquatic and semi-aquatic species—while creating flood and climate-resilient systems that support human needs in the basin.
2018 science symposium
In Sept. 19-20, 2018, the Chehalis Basin Aquatic Species Restoration Plan Steering hosted a two-day science symposium in Chehalis in which participants shared findings from scientific research that will inform the ASRP.
The work was funded, in large part, by the Chehalis Basin Strategy and is being used to inform the development of the ASRP. The 2018 Science Symposium website includes all the reports as well as recordings of the presentations made at the event.