UPDATE: Please note that we have extended our public comment period to May 27. To protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, we also have shifted our in-person public hearings to online public comment events on April 2 and April 21. We have posted a blog with more details how to participate.
The Washington Department of Ecology has finished its draft environmental review of a proposal by the Chehalis River Basin Flood Control Zone District to reduce damage from major floods in Chehalis and Centralia.
The Flood District proposed to build a flood retention dam and temporary reservoir on the Chehalis River near Pe Ell, and make changes around the Chehalis-Centralia Airport that include raising the levee.
The proposed project is one of an array of small- and large-scale projects and short- and long-term actions the Chehalis Basin Board will consider as it develops the Chehalis Basin Strategy to reduce flood-related damage and restore aquatic species habitat throughout the Chehalis River basin.
The Chehalis Board will consider the environmental review, as well as other information sources, to evaluate social, economic, and other public interest considerations to guide the strategy for the basin.
Climate change will drive more frequent, higher flood levels and put native fish runs at higher risk in the future—absent significant restoration efforts. Ecology has integrated climate change impacts into the EIS analysis of future conditions where the proposed dam would operate.
The EIS found the Flood District’s project would reduce flooding to buildings and infrastructure, including U.S. Interstate 5. It also would have significant adverse effects, mainly along the Chehalis River in the area above the proposed dam and below it to the confluence with the South Fork of the Chehalis River.
The EIS found the project would have adverse effects on:
- Salmon and other fish, and their habitat
- Some wildlife, such as amphibians
- Water quality
- The Chehalis River channel
The project would also increase greenhouse gas emissions and could significantly impact tribal and cultural resources.
Several impacts from the proposal would be unavoidable unless measures to offset them are determined feasible and meet regulatory requirements. This would be determined during future permitting processes by permitting agencies.
Ecology will hold two public hearings on the draft EIS, including an open house and presentation about the study’s findings:
- Centralia - March 31, 5 to 8:30 p.m., Centralia College, 600 Centralia College Boulevard.
- Montesano - April 2, 5 to 8:30 p.m., Montesano Jr. Sr. High School, 303 N. Church St.
In addition to submitting comments online or at the public hearings, comments can also be mailed to:
Chehalis River Basin Flood Damage Reduction Project EIS
1201 Third Ave., Suite 2600
Seattle, WA 98101
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing a separate environmental review of the Flood District’s proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The federal draft review is planned to be released in September 2020.