Environmental Review
Chehalis Basin Strategy

Reducing flood damage and restoring aquatic species habitat in the Chehalis Basin

The Chehalis River Basin is at a turning point. Peak flood levels have been rising in the Basin over the last 30 years; a trend that may continue into the future. Aquatic species and their habitats are significantly degraded in the Basin. If action is not taken, the current course could result in Endangered Species Act listings and related restrictions.

Under the direction of the governor in 2014, the Chehalis Basin Work Group developed a recommended suite of actions that would reduce flood damages in the near term, restore habitat for aquatic species, and consider long-term, large-scale flood damage reduction actions. The recommended suite of actions is known as the Chehalis Basin Strategy. The Strategy is a comprehensive and integrated approach to implementing flood damage reduction and aquatic species restoration actions in the Chehalis Basin. In response to the Work Group’s recommendation, we are preparing the Chehalis Basin Strategy Programmatic SEPA Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will assess the effectiveness and potential environmental impacts of varying options designed to reduce flood damage and restore aquatic species habitat in the Basin. The EIS will include the Work Group's recommended suite of actions from 2014.

The draft Chehalis Basin Strategy Programmatic EIS was issued on September 29, 2016, followed by an opportunity for public review and comment. The final Programmatic EIS, which includes responses to public comments received on the draft, was published on June 2, 2017.

Programmatic Environmental review

A Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement is different from a typical, project-level Environmental Impact Statement. Normally, an EIS would focus on a specific proposed project or action. With the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, we are looking broadly at program-level issues related to implementing an integrated strategy in the Basin.

The assessments in a Programmatic EIS are typically more general and more qualitative than those in a project-specific EIS.

The Governor’s Work Group considered the draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, and the public comments received on the draft EIS, in developing their recommendations to the Governor for his proposed 2017-2019 budget. More detailed environmental review will be conducted when specific projects have been selected for implementation.

Ecology was the lead agency in developing the Programmatic EIS for the Chehalis Basin Strategy. The elements of the final strategy will help to prevent economic and cultural losses for tribal fisheries, residents, local farms, businesses and others who depend on and enjoy the Chehalis Basin. During the past several years, Ecology has worked in coordination with local governments and community leaders to study this dynamic region. The agency has collaborated with residents, stakeholders and other agencies to identify potential solutions that will reduce the risk of flood damage and restore aquatic species and other natural resources in the basin. The Programmatic EIS is building off of this completed work. Learn more

News Release (June 2, 2017)

Steps in the environmental review process and estimated timeline

2015-2016 - Prepare draft programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS): Ecology’s consultant, under the direction of Ecology,  prepared the draft SEPA Programmatic EIS according to the results of the scoping process. The purpose of the programmatic EIS is to assist the public, participating agencies and entities, and decision makers in evaluating conceptual approaches to reducing flood damage and restoring aquatic species habitat in the Chehalis Basin. The Programmatic EIS assessed the effectiveness of identified alternatives in meeting the purpose and need, and provided information on potential environmental impacts of each action alternative.

Fall 2016 – Issue draft programmatic EIS, open public comment period, hold public hearings: The draft programmatic EIS will be circulated so that the public and other agencies and entities are given an opportunity to comment on the accuracy and content before it is finalized. This process will include public hearings. Ecology will consider and respond to public comments in the final programmatic EIS.

We are here (arrow)June 2, 2017 – Issue final programmatic environmental impact statement: The final programmatic EIS was issued in an addendum format, and includes responses to the comments made on the draft EIS.

Public involvement opportunities

There are no public involvement opportunities scheduled at this time. The public comment period for the draft Programmatic EIS ended on November 14, 2016. The draft Programmatic EIS and comments received on the draft EIS are available on the Chehalis Basin Strategy Environmental Review page.

Office of Chehalis Basin and Chehalis Board

In 2016, the Washington State Legislature created the Office of Chehalis Basin to “aggressively pursue implementation of an integrated strategy and administer funding for long-term flood damage reduction and aquatic species restoration in the Chehalis River Basin.” The new office is located within the Department of Ecology.

The Legislature also created in that same Act a seven-member Chehalis Board to (a) oversee implementation of the Chehalis Basin Strategy and (b) develop budget recommendations to the Governor. The Board will oversee efforts intended to restore habitat for aquatic species like salmon, and to improve the environmental health of the Chehalis River and its tributaries. The Board will also ensure actions are implemented to significantly reduce damage from major floods and protect communities throughout the Basin. The Board will make recommendations to the Washington State Department of Ecology, Governor and Legislature regarding changes in laws, budgets and other actions needed to achieve the dual objectives of the integrated Strategy.

The Office and Board will become operational in mid-2017, at the beginning of the 2017-2019 funding biennium. For more information, contact Chrissy Bailey at (360) 407-6781 or Chrissy.bailey@ecy.wa.gov.

Related information

Additional resources

 

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PROJECT INFORMATION

Location:

WRIA #22 (Lower Chehalis)

WRIA #23 (Upper Chehalis)

Counties: Portions of Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, and Thurston

Region: Southwest Regional Office (SWRO)

Ecology Point of Contact:
Chrissy Bailey
chrissy.bailey@ecy.wa.gov

Project website:
www.chehalisbasinstrategy.com