No-dam alternative short shrifted in budget

In response to overwhelming public opposition to building a flood control dam on the Chehalis River, Gov. Inslee, in July 2020, requested the Chehalis Basin Board define a process and timeline for developing a non-dam alternative to reduce flood damage and evaluate a basin-wide, non-dam alternative to reduce flood damage. He also requested that the board continue to evaluate issues raised by constructing and operating a dam, and to deliver a consensus recommendation to him by September 2020.

This has not occurred. To its credit, the Office of the Chehalis Basin (OCB) developed technical and implementation teams to respond to the large number of public comments that called for the development of a comprehensive, basin-wide local action flood damage reduction program or local action program (LAP). These committees have worked hard to develop the structure of such a program.

Yet, in the recently proposed budget for the 2021-2022 Biennium Budget and Work Plan, $0 was proposed for the development of the non-dam alternative LAP. There are also other serious problems with the proposed budget:

• The proposed budget allocated $20 million for preliminary engineering for the dam, and for permit applications. This signals that the OCB has predetermined which flood reduction actions will be taken before the final environmental impact statement has been issued.

• The proposed budget includes $33 million toward the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan, and nearly $40 million toward flood reduction projects. This does not meet the often stated intent of the basin-wide strategy: to equally fund reducing flood-related damage and restoring habitat. $40 million should be allocated to the Restoration Plan.

• The Community Flood Assistance & Resilience Program is only allocated $3 million for the next biennium. This is not enough. We need a massive movement to elevate homes, businesses, and utilities – and get people out of harm’s way. We also need to stop floodplain development.

• The OCB should let the public know what their plans are for a path forward before seeking approval of the next budget. They did not do that at their last public meeting on February 17, 2021.

• Lastly, the OCB should fully scrutinize the projects proposed by the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority ($10 million total). One project, the Chehalis Industrial Park Stormwater Management Project, proposes almost $2 million dollars to prevent flooding in areas of the Industrial Park. But if plans are moving ahead for a dam – why are both necessary?

The board has discretion to reallocate funding. At its upcoming 9 a.m. June 3 meeting, the board needs to approve the $70 million appropriation or risk funding delays. Approval by at least six of seven voting members is needed.

Consider attending this meeting to voice your concerns. The meeting is virtual and you can link to it here:

Lee First