$4 million approved by Chehalis Basin Board for Hoquiam levee

After about a month’s delay, the Chehalis Basin Board has approved the allocation of $70 million in state funds for flood damage reduction and aquatic species habitat restoration, including $4 million for the North Shore Levee West Segment in Hoquiam.

“The city of Hoquiam is thrilled and very thankful that the Office of Chehalis Basin Board has allocated $4 million to the North Shore Levee West Segment,” said City Administrator Brian Shay. “With this funding, Hoquiam will proceed with final design, right-of-way, and permitting with the goal of having the project shovel ready for construction in 2023.”

The funding decision was delayed about a month as the board wrangled with appropriations primarily dealing with a proposed flood retention dam on the Chehalis River in Lewis County near Pe Ell — the board approved $10.5 million for continued analysis of that project and Chehalis-Centralia Airport levee improvements.

The dam has been a controversial recommendation, drawing opposition from tribes and environmental groups. The $10.5 million approved by the board “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,” according to a Department of Ecology statement.

“No decisions or approvals whether the proposed dam will move froward to permitting have been made.”

The North Shore Levee West Segment will stretch about 4.7 miles, from the north end of town east to the Hoquiam River, south along the west bank of the river, then west along the north side of Grays Harbor to about Paulson Road, then north to State Route 109. It’s designed to protect 2,000 properties and 360 businesses from floods, and remove more than $1 million in annual mandatory flood insurance premiums from the community.

The estimated $40 million project would, according to the city, maintain 450 jobs and create new jobs within its protection area, and protect $200 million in private and public investments. It would, depending on several factors, use existing high ground, or require the construction of an earthen, concrete or sheet pile levee, with the height determined by current elevation and other factors.

The $4 million recently approved by the Chehalis Basin Board was the amount requested this past legislative session, and will be used, as Shay said, to complete final design and right-of-way acquisition of properties within the levee’s alignment.

The precise alignment has not yet been set in stone, so to speak, that will be part of the work accomplished with the $4 million Chehalis Basin funding. For instance, earlier alignments did not protect the wastewater treatment plant, but Shay said the city is now working to do so.

“The cities of Hoquiam and Aberdeen are committed to completing both segments of the North Shore Levee and the Fry Creek Pump Station Project to provide thousands of property owners with flood protection and flood insurance relief that will benefit the entire community,” said Shay.