In the decade following the devastating Chehalis River flood, state and local leaders have put strategies in place to prevent damage from floods in the state’s second-largest river drainage basin. And they are planning more.
The 2007 flood closed Interstate 5 at Chehalis for four days. The rising waters snarled traffic locally and regionally, killed livestock, destroyed buildings and displaced families and businesses. As the community repaired the damage and cleaned up the mess, officials began preparing for future floods.
They did not have to wait long, with floods hitting again in 2009, closing I-5 for two days and causing more damage.
In 2011, the Washington Legislature commissioned a report on projects that could help the state’s flood-prone areas. The next year, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire formed the Chehalis Basin Work Group, composed of local elected officials, citizens and tribal leaders, to recommend actions to mitigate flood damage and explore options for restoring fish habitat.
During the past several years, millions of dollars have been invested in the effort. In the state’s 2013–15 and the 2015–17 budgets, lawmakers dedicated a combined $78 million to gathering information, studying options and acting immediately on flood mitigation and fishery projects. As legislators work on a compromise 2017–19 budget, they are considering a new state investment of up to $50 million.
This year will bring even more changes. Starting in July, the work group will become an official state board — the Chehalis Board — overseen by the state Department of Ecology.
Read the rest of the story on the governor’s Medium page.