Chehalis Basin Strategy
Chehalis Basin Board meetings
Chair Vickie Raines has called a special meeting of the Chehalis Basin Board on December 7, 2017. The meeting will be held at the Rotary Log Pavilion in Aberdeen, Washington, beginning at 10:00 am. The agenda and meeting materials are available through EZ View.
Reducing flood damage and restoring aquatic species' habitat in the Chehalis Basin
Washington and local leaders are developing the Chehalis Basin Strategy, a collection of potential actions to tackle the challenges of reducing flood damage and restoring and improving aquatic species habitat in the Chehalis River basin.
The basin-wide strategy will include near- and long-term actions as well as small- and large-scale projects. In the long-term, the goals are to make the Chehalis River basin a safer place for families and communities affected by flooding and restore and improve aquatic species habitat now and for future generations.
Why we need the Chehalis Basin Strategy
The primary strategy goals are to restore aquatic species habitat and reduce damages from major floods. Five of the largest floods in the basin’s history have occurred in the last 30 years. Summers are becoming drier as well. Not taking action could cost as much as $3.5 billion during the next 100 years.
Salmon are an important species in the Chehalis River basin. However, salmon habitat has degraded in past decades. While there have been healthy salmon runs in the basin every year for the past 30 years, poor returns of some salmon species have significantly limited harvest for tribal and non-tribal fisheries. The basin’s current ability to support fish has decreased by as much as 80 percent for some species. The Chehalis is currently one of the only river basins in Washington that does not have any federally-listed endangered salmon species - but this could change if habitat isn't improved.
Our role developing and assessing the strategy
Under the direction of the governor in 2014, the Chehalis Basin Work Group recommended a path forward to reduce flood damages and restore aquatic species habitat in the near-term and consider long-term, large-scale strategies to achieve this integrated goal. Ecology is 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) to assess the effectiveness of different basin flood damage reduction and aquatic habitat restoration strategies. Each strategy was made up of a unique suite of actions to address 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 2017, the work group recommended a 2017-19 plan and budget. They also recommended that we continue our detailed investigation of proposed long-term actions identified in the June 2, 2017, programmatic EIS. The work group also advocated funding important near-term, early-action projects to begin improving habitat and reducing flood damage.
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.
Office of the Chehalis Basin & Chehalis Board
The 2016 Washington Legislature created the Office of Chehalis Basin and Chehalis Basin Board to advance the Chehalis Basin Strategy. Lawmakers established the Office of Chehalis Basin within Ecology to pursue implementation of the Chehalis Basin Strategy, and the Chehalis Basin Board to provide long-term oversight of the strategy, including developing budget recommendations to the governor.
Through the office, we will administer funding from the legislature to implement the Chehalis Basin Strategy. The office will provide staff support to the Chehalis Basin Board. Both the office and board will become operational in July 2017. We will post materials for the Chehalis Basin Board as they become available.
Chehalis Basin Strategy environmental review
A programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is different from a typical, project-level EIS. Normally, an EIS would focus on a specific proposed project or action.
In the Chehalis Basin Strategy Draft Programmatic EIS, we looked broadly at program-level issues related to implementing an integrated strategy in the basin. The assessments in the programmatic EIS are more general and qualitative than those you would find in a project-specific EIS. More detailed environmental review will be conducted when specific projects have been selected for implementation.
WRIA #22 (Lower Chehalis)
WRIA #23 (Upper Chehalis)
COUNTIES: Portions of Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, and Thurston
REGION: Southwest Regional Office (SWRO)
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