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Chehalis Basin Strategy

The Chehalis River Basin is at a turning point.

Peak flood levels have been rising over the past 30 years a trend we expect to continue into the future. In addition, habitat for many aquatic species in the basin has been significantly degraded.

The Chehalis Basin Strategy is an integrated approach with two overarching objectives: Habitat restoration and flood damage reduction. Projects and actions must support both objectives.

Flooded homes and businesses in Boisfert Valley during 2007 Chehalis River basin catastrophic flood.

Photo credit: Mike Salsbury and Rollingsbay Works

Office of Chehalis Basin

In 2016, the Legislature created the Office of Chehalis Basin within Ecology. Through this office, we administer legislative funding to implement the Chehalis Basin Strategy. The office also supports the Chehalis Basin Board in aggressively pursuing long-term flood damage reduction and aquatic species restoration projects.

Chehalis Basin Board

The Chehalis Basin Board was created to provide long-term oversight of the strategy, including developing budget recommendations to the Governor. We also provide staff support to the Chehalis Basin Board.

Both the office and board became operational in July 2017.

Meetings 

The Chehalis Basin Board held a special meeting on February 8, 2018, in Centralia, Washington. The agenda and meeting materials are available through EZ View.

Reducing flood damage, restoring aquatic species habitat

Washington state and local leaders are developing the Chehalis Basin Strategy, an array of potential actions designed to reduce flood damage as well as restore and improve aquatic species habitat in the river basin.
The strategy will include near and long-term actions as well as small and large-scale projects. The long-term goals are to make the Chehalis River basin:

  • A safer place for families and communities affected by flooding.
  • Restoring and improving aquatic species habitat now and for future generations.

Critical strategy for Chehalis Basin

In the past 30 years, the Chehalis River basin has experienced its five largest floods in recorded history. Summer seasons have become drier. Not taking action could cost as much as $3.5 billion during the next 100 years.

Salmon are a critical aquatic species in the Chehalis River basin. It is one of the only river basins in Washington without any federally-listed endangered salmon species.

While there have been healthy annual fish runs in the basin for the past 30 years, the river system’s  current ability to support fish has decreased by as much as 80 percent for some species.

Poor returns of these species has significantly limited the harvest for tribal and non-tribal fisheries. If aquatic habitat is not improved, some salmon species could become endangered.

Our role developing and assessing the strategy

Under the Governor’s direction in 2014, the Chehalis Basin Work Group recommended a path forward to:
  • Reduce flood damage and restore aquatic species habitat in the near-term.
  • Consider long-term, large-scale strategies to reduce flood damage while improving aquatic habitat.
Ecology was a non-voting member of the work group, and we participated in developing and reviewing technical studies to support decisions.

In response to the work group’s recommendation, we prepared a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement(EIS) in June 2017 to assess the effectiveness of different basin flood damage reduction and aquatic habitat restoration strategies. Each alternative we assessed included a unique suite of actions to address both these challenges.

During the environmental review process, we scoped other alternatives, studied the potential environmental effects of each option, and sought input from tribal governments, interest groups and the community.

In December 2016, the work group recommended a 2017-19 work plan and budget and that we continue our detailed investigation of proposed long-term actions identified in the programmatic EIS.

The work group also advocated funding important near-term, early-action projects to begin improving habitat and reducing flood damage in the basin.

More information on the Chehalis Basin Strategy

The Chehalis Basin Strategy website contains comprehensive information about the Chehalis Basin Strategy, including how the strategy originated and has developed.

The site also contains information about the environmental review completed in June 2017. There are many actions currently under consideration and the long-term strategy will be continued to be developed from now through 2019 — and beyond.

Programmatic environmental review

The Programmatic EIS for the Chehalis Basin Strategy looked broadly at program-level issues for implementing an integrated strategy.

Typically, an EIS focuses on a specific proposed project or action. However, the 2017 programmatic EIS took a broader look at putting an integrated strategy in place.

A more detailed environmental review will be conducted when specific projects have been selected to carry out the broader basin-wide strategy.

Board member contact information

Voting members

Name Appointing Authority Phone Email
Dave Burnett Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation 360-273-1251  burnett@ecy.wa.gov
Edna Fund Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority 360-740-1120 fund@ecy.wa.gov
Jay Gordon Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority 360-482-3485 gordon@ecy.wa.gov
Tyson Johnston Quinault Indian Nation 360-276-8211 ext. 1855 johnston@ecy.wa.gov
Steve Malloch Office of the Governor 206-818-0482 malloch@ecy.wa.gov
Vicki Raines, Chair Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority 360-249-3731 raines@ecy.wa.gov
J. Vander Stoep Office of the Governor 360-748-9281 vstoep@ecy.wa.gov

 

Ex officio members

Name Agency Phone Email
Justin Allegro Department of Fish and Wildlife 360-707-8927 justin.allegro@dfw.wa.gov
Stephen Bernath Department of Natural Resources 360-902-1028 stephen.bernath@dnr.wa.gov
Kris Strickler Department of Transportation 360-905-2001 stricklerk@wsdot.wa.gov
Stu Trefry Washington State Conservation Commission 360-584-5213 strefry@scc.wa.gov
Gordon White Department of Ecology 360-407-6977 gordon.white@ecy.wa.gov