Chehalis Basin Board approves $70 million spending plan

On Aug. 16, the Chehalis Basin Board voted unanimously to approve a two-year spending plan for the Chehalis Basin Strategy. The 2021-23 plan allocates $70 million, which was appropriated to our Office of Chehalis Basin (OCB) by the state Legislature. The plan outlines a portfolio of actions to reduce flood damage and restore aquatic species habitat throughout the Chehalis River Basin in Southwest Washington.

The board has been working together to lay out the specifics of the spending plan since early this summer. Chehalis Basin Strategy actions and investments were temporarily paused on July 1, as the board continued discussions to reach consensus around key portions of the plan.

“The Chehalis Basin is an important place — home to distinct communities, vital commercial and tribal fishing and shellfishing industries, productive timberlands, significant agricultural production, and the I-5 key commercial corridor,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Meeting the twin goals of reducing flood damage and restoring aquatic species is vital to the basin’s future. I appreciate the hard work of the board to create a shared path forward. The Chehalis Basin Strategy is a priority for Washington state, and I am deeply invested in its continued success.”

The decision represents months of outreach, questions, research, robust dialog, and extensive collaboration between OCB, board members, state agencies, tribal governments, project partners, basin community members, and local governments.

 “This next step for the Chehalis Basin Strategy is especially significant now, as our region navigates the immediate impacts of climate change — drought, water curtailments, and searing water temperatures, followed by forecasts of a likely La Niña season to bring flooding this upcoming winter,” said OCB Director Andrea McNamara Doyle. “We must prioritize these urgent efforts to protect against the dual threats of flood damage and aquatic species decline.”

2021-23 budget highlights 

Spawning salmon in a river

Spending highlights include:

  • $11.8 million for local-scale flood damage reduction efforts, which are designed to keep communities and ecosystems safe now and for years to come. This will fund priorities identified by local communities through the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority, as well as support for more individual landowners seeking to flood-proof, elevate, or relocate their homes.
  • $10.5 million for the continued analysis of the proposed flood retention dam near Pe Ell and Chehalis-Centralia Airport levee improvements. No decisions or approvals have been made as to whether the proposed dam will move forward to permitting. This funding will address items required to complete the final state and federal environmental impact statements, and will support further defining the opportunities to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse environmental impacts from the proposed project.
  • $22.3 million for the aquatic species restoration plan, which is designed to protect and restore more than 550 miles of prioritized aquatic habitat. This will fund 13 miles of new reach-scale projects, early work on an additional 16 miles, five new amphibian habitat projects, and six new protection acquisitions. It also provides implementation support for the many miles of projects already underway.
  • $4.4 million for integrated projects that meet both flood damage reduction and aquatic species habitat goals. This includes erosion management projects, the Skookumchuck dam analysis, cold water refuge techniques, floodplain acquisition and land use recommendations, and more.
  • $17.6 million for additional aquatic species and flood damage reduction priorities, which the board will determine in 2022.

“This portfolio of actions for the 2021-2023 biennium represents the culmination of many hard conversations and a strongly held commitment to the many different needs and interests here in the Chehalis Basin,” said Chehalis Basin Board Chair Vickie Raines. “I’m proud of what the board has already achieved as well as the many things that this effort will go on to accomplish.”

Chehalis Basin Strategy overview

The Chehalis Basin Strategy, led by the Chehalis Basin Board, was launched by former Gov. Christine Gregoire in 2010 to meet two of the Basin’s greatest challenges — the alarming decline of salmon and other aquatic species, and the certainty that catastrophic flooding will once again devastate the basin.

Following the spending plan approval, all new Chehalis Basin Strategy projects that have been on hold can now resume. Partner agencies are working to determine which field monitoring and other studies and analysis can still take place as planned this summer.