Flood Authority faces uncertain six months with no capital budget

Projects that will be put on hold include a wastewater project in Grays Harbor County.

By Natalie Johnson

The Chronicle

The failure of the Washington state Legislature to pass a capital budget despite extending its work into three special sessions has left the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority in a state of financial uncertainty, board member Ron Averill said last week.

Averill, who represents the city of Centralia on the Flood Authority board, made up of representatives from more than a dozen local jurisdictions impacted by flooding, briefed the Centralia City Council on the issue Tuesday, July 25.

“The Flood Authority is totally funded by the capital budget,” Averill told The Chronicle last Friday. “The new biennium just started on the first of July.”

However, the Legislature adjourned without passing a capital budget. Averill said the Authority might have to wait until January to receive promised funding.

“As a result, there’s been no new money come into the Flood Authority,” Averill said.

He said the Authority expected $9.6 million for small projects and $50 million for restoration and research from the state capital budget for the newly formed Office of the Chehalis Basin.

The state’s capital budget funds construction and repair of public buildings and the purchase of land, and also grants money to local governments or nonprofit organizations for infrastructure, housing and cultural projects, according to the Washington State Legislature.

The Flood Authority has about $13 million left over from the last biennium capital budget allocated for several ongoing projects, he said, but will likely not receive any funding for new projects through January, when the Legislature reconvenes.

Projects that will be put on hold include the second part of a two-phase flood-control effort on Centralia’s China Creek and a wastewater project in Grays Harbor County, Averill said.

Averill said some have suggested allocating the $13 million for different uses to keep the flood authority going. No decisions have been made on that yet, he said.

“Until we know what the decisions are, the answer is there’s no new projects that will start,” he said.

J. Vander Stoep, a Chehalis attorney, member of the Office of the Chehalis Basin Board and a Flood Authority alternate board member, said he expected the state Chehalis Basin programs such as the aquatic species plan development or permitting for a water retention facility might be affected.

“How much and how fast? I don’t even know what all the alternatives are yet,” he said.

Vander Stoep noted that it is possible the state Legislature will approve the capital budget before January.