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.
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.
Chair Vickie Raines called a special meeting of the Chehalis Basin Board on June 7, 2018, at the VR Lee Community Building in Chehalis, Washington at 9:00 a.m. 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.
- Restore and improve 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 due to flood and drought-related losses including:
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.
- Repairing or replacing damaged homes, businesses, and other structures
- Disruptions to local business and agricultural activities
- Interruptions to state highway and rail transportation along the U.S. Interstate 5 corridor
- Continued aquatic habitat degradation and loss
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:
Ecology was a non-voting member of the work group, and we participated in developing and reviewing technical studies to support decisions.
- 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.
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 was 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
Ex officio members