When rain pounds his roof, Dave Fenn starts to worry.
The 71-year-old Boistfort Valley farmer fears another massive flood like the one in 2007, when an engorged Chehalis River tore through his community, destroying homes, killing cattle and shutting down Interstate 5 for days.
Studies peg the economic cost of that flood at more than $900 million, but there was an emotional toll too. “I still have trouble talking in front of people about what it did to our community,” Fenn said. “A number of people just plain moved away. It’s hard on the psyche."
Chehalis River floods have become much more destructive over the years, he said, which is why Fenn and others in his community are urging the state to fund projects that would help prevent flooding. Consider it an insurance policy, he said, against economic disaster.
The proposed solutions would take years to put in place and cost several hundred million dollars. Options include buying up riverfront property and building a reservoir upstream to capture stormwater. The sheer magnitude of what’s needed calls for a dedicated source of state funding, said J. Vander Stoep, a Chehalis attorney and former chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton who is calling for action. “The longer we wait,” he said, “the worse the problem gets.”
Fenn and Vander Stoep said it’s up to lawmakers to decide where the money should come from.
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