Grays Harbor wetlands among three awarded federal grant funding for restoration

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology, in partnership with the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust was recently awarded $310,000 to permanently protect 175 acres of high quality coastal surge plain and six miles of sloughs at the head of Grays Harbor, in Grays Harbor County. The department was awarded $2.2 million in grant funding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support three critical coastal wetland projects in Washington state. Washington was one of 12 states and Puerto Rico to receive funding under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants Program.

“The projects selected for the grant funds will help restore and enhance our wetlands which are vital habitat for fish and wildlife,” said Lauren Driscoll, wetlands manager for Ecology’s shorelands and environmental assistance program. “This is a significant opportunity for the selected communities to leverage their local dollars with matching federal grant funds. These projects will help preserve our wetlands for future generations.”

The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is a matching grants program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). The program is designed to acquire, restore and enhance wetlands, which are experiencing a dramatic annual loss according to a new study by the Service. Using matching funds from this grant program, Ecology has partnered with tribes, cities, counties, federal and state agencies and others to acquire, restore and enhance coastal wetlands throughout Washington.

About the projects

Elliott Slough Acquisition: Ecology, in partnership with the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust was awarded $310,000 to permanently protect 175 acres of high quality coastal surge plain and six miles of sloughs at the head of Grays Harbor, in Grays Harbor County. This acquisition is part of a larger effort to conserve the Chehalis River Surge Plain and is located next to a State Natural Area Preserve and an Audubon Society preserve.

Lower Naselle – Ellsworth Creek Acquisition: Ecology, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), was awarded $921,767 to conserve 386 acres of estuarine wetlands and adjacent uplands at Willapa Bay in Pacific County. This project includes estuarine tidal lands along the Lower Naselle River and within TNC’s adjacent Ellsworth Creek Preserve. The project supports ongoing conservation efforts of a large number of agencies and partners, including the nearby Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge, to protect and restore the bay.

Skokomish Estuary Restoration: Ecology, in partnership with the Mason Conservation District and Skokomish Tribe, was awarded $1 million to complete the restoration of estuarine wetlands located on the Skokomish Reservation at the mouth of the Skokomish River in Mason County. The project builds upon the successful work of Phase 1, with the goal of restoring natural processes, functions, and species to an 825-acre area of the Skokomish estuary, which contains a variety of nationally declining wetland types.

House hears bills to provide flood funding in Chehalis Basin

Two bills aimed at providing funding for flood relief projects in the Chehalis River Basin and statewide were heard in the House Capital Budget Committee today. The bills are sponsored by Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, who also serves as the ranking Republican on the committee (pictured at right).Rep. DeBolt speaking in committee

“All of my focus this year is on providing this funding to make real the vision of the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority,” said DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “Our region cannot keep waiting for protection from the next flood. We can’t wait on further delays from the federal government, and it’s in the best interest of this state to invest in and protect our economic and infrastructure interests in the area.”

The five largest floods in the Chehalis Basin have occurred in the last 30 years. The 2007 flood caused an estimated $938 million in damage to infrastructure and communities.

House Bill 2356 would authorize $1 billion in general obligation bonds to finance flood hazard reduction projects in high risk areas of Washington that are most vulnerable to flooding.

House Bill 2357 would also authorize $1 billion in general obligation bonds for the same purposes, but also provide $505 million for storm water projects from general obligation bonds to protect and improve water quality and watershed function.

Testimony on flooding

Either bill could move forward, depending on support in the Legislature.

J. Vander Stoep, a Chehalis attorney; Dave Burnett, chair of the Chehalis Confederated Tribes and Vicki Raines, mayor of the town of Cosmopolis and chair of the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority, traveled to Olympia to testify before the committee (pictured at left).Testimony on flooding They provided an update on the use of previous funding for smaller projects, the regional plan for addressing floods, and questions that remain for the authority to answer before its report is due to the Legislature in November. (part of presentation pictured at right)

“I’m glad we had the local perspective to share how important this funding is to the people who live and work in the Chehalis Basin. This is about saving lives and livelihoods when the next flood comes. We must be prepared and not delay,” DeBolt said. “Flooding is the most costly natural disaster in our state – the better we can prepare for and prevent damage the more our state will save in the long run.”

DeBolt provided each member of the committee with copies of “This Flood Happened,” a compilation of stories about the 2007 flood from students at Adna Elementary in Chehalis.

One story from a kindergarten student reads: “The bridge broke to our house and the water came right up to our house. We rode the 4-wheelers through the trails to get out. We went to Uncle Dave’s house and stayed there a couple nights. Then we went to Grandma Donna’s house and spent lots of nights. Now we are all back home together and it is good.” A third grader wrote: “When the flood came, it started coming faster and faster. The RV started to float. The RV tilted. I started getting banged around. A helicopter came and got me and my Dad. I went and stayed with my Mom.” One first grader simply stated: “I didn’t feel good when the flood happened because I was scared. I was sad because my friends got flooded.”

“While I understand our focus is on funding for these projects, I wanted to provide the very real human stories affected by this devastating flood,” DeBolt said. “The importance of moving forward so this level of damage does not happen again cannot be understated. I look forward to moving forward with this funding so we can continue with the larger flood prevention projects now.”

After today’s hearing, both bills will await action by the House Capital Budget Committee. If the committee approves one or both bills, they will advance for consideration to be placed on the House floor calendar. At that point, the full House of Representatives could vote on the legislation.

The 2014 session is scheduled to adjourn March 13.

For more information about Rep. DeBolt, visit: www.representativericharddebolt.com.

Invasive species found in Grays Harbor, Chehalis River Basin

CENTRAL PARK, Wash. – New Zealand mudsnails were recently discovered in the lower Chehalis River approximately 2.0 miles south of Central Park and approximately 2.5 miles east of Cosmopolis. This is the first discovery of New Zealand mudsnails in the Chehalis River Basin.

The invasive species was found at the Washington Department of Natural Resources Blue Slough Access area.
The NZMS were found in mud around a spring at the site. The New Zealand mudsnails were collected during low tide, the site is inundated with water at high tide. The site is tidally influenced and the water is brackish. The extent of introduction is unknown.

Snail map
The collectors also sampled at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife boat ramp, just up steam of the Blue Slough site, adjacent to the SR107 bridge (about RM 13.2). No New Zealand mudsnails were found. The Chehalis River is brackish here as well.

Montesano Mayor thanks Flood Authority for support


We had given the legislature our best estimate as to the cost of the project to protect our facilities. As sometimes happens, once we have more details we found the project will cost more than the original estimate and we now know it will cost approximately $6M because of length of the shoreline threatened by the river and expense of driving metal sheet pile to prevent major erosion in a big flood.
The rest of this story is an amazing example of people working together for the great good of the communities across the Chehalis River Basin. The legislature had provided funding for many local projects. The difference was that our project is permitted and ready to start and we have been praying that we can get the project started before the flood season which is now only three months away. Cosmopolis Mayor Vickie Raines, who is also chair of the Flood Authority, and Grays Harbor Commissioner Wes Cormier really stepped up and showed leadership. They volunteered to move funds designated the Mill Creek dam repair, Satsop floodplain restoration project and Wishkah road project to our project now. The Flood Authority members agreed. This was made possible also due to the strong support of our local legislators Senator Hargrove, Representatives Blake and Tharinger who committed to get the funds to complete the other three projects in the next legislative session. The fact is that our project was ready to start while those projects still need design and permitting work. 

This is a demonstration that local government representatives on the Flood Authority are clearly focused on a basin-wide approach to addressing the damage from floods and not just the interests of their jurisdiction. 
The problem of Chehalis basin flooding is bigger than just Montesano or Grays Harbor. I am proud to see a team mentality developing among the communities in the basin. Our local project is only one piece of the puzzle. We need a basin wide approach to reduce flood damage along with a dedicated program to enhance the natural resources of the basin. 
Other communities in Lewis, Thurston and Grays Harbor put the interests of Montesano at the head of the line now. We won’t forget. Our community is committed to stay involved until we have finished all of the needed local projects and found a basin wide solution to catastrophic flooding. After decades of frustration and failure when it comes to these issues, I am now an optimist that we have the leadership, the vision and the team to solve the big problems.
Ken Estes, Mayor
City of Montesano
360-249-3021 Ext 102

Flood Authority funds Montesano project, “more to do” on three others

The Authority said the other projects are still priorities and it is expected that additional appropriations from the Legislature will allow money to be transferred back to the other projects for construction.

Senator Jim Hargrove and Representatives Steve Tharinger and Brian Blake have committed to advocate in the next Legislative session for the funding needed to complete the three projects. Fully funding the Montesano project provides the opportunity to construct the project potentially before the coming flood season and prevent catastrophic damage if another major flood was to occur. Even with the transfer of funds to the Montesano project there is still funding for engineering design and permits to proceed as planned for the three other projects.
 
 
The Flood Authority also adopted a new method for funding the early warning system, Lewis County will pay %64, Grays Harbor %22, and Thurston county %14 of the $55,000 annual fee.

Commissioners Want More Information on Flood Control District

MONTESANO, Wash. – The Grays Harbor County Commissioners have voted against adopting a resolution to form a Flood Control Zone District that would encompass the Chehalis River Basin Watershed. County Commissioner Herb Welch tells KBKW one of the biggest concerns was the formation of a potential taxing district “this resolution didn’t create taxes, it simply created a district that then down the line could create taxes.”
After nearly an hour of public comment at yesterday’s meeting, the Commissioners voted against the adoption, Welch said they plan to come back with more information on the Flood Control Zone District before proposing a formation again.

Open House to Discuss Flooding in The Chehalis River Basin

The community will have the opportunity to meet representatives from federal, state, and local agencies responsible for the flood planning efforts in the basin. Each agency will have a station with information on their role in helping the community. However, no formal presentations are planned.

Where/When:

To accommodate the community, there are three different meeting dates and locations.

  • · Sept. 16 – Swede Hall, 18543 Albany St. S.W., Rochester, 4 – 7 p.m.
  • · Sept. 23 – Montesano City Hall, 112 N. Main St., Montesano, 4 – 7 p.m.
  • · Sept. 30 – Centralia Middle School Gym, 901 Johnson Road, Centralia, 4 – 7 p.m.

    The group will update the community on the status of the many ongoing projects and studies aimed at reducing flood risks in the Chehalis River Basin.

  • Chehalis River Basin fishing closure

    Reasons for action:   Early indications are that both hatchery and natural steelhead returning to the Chehalis River basin are well below pre-season projections.  Available data indicate escapement goals will not be met.  Many independent tributaries have not achieved their spawner escapement goals in recent years; the entire Chehalis River system has not met minimum conservation goals for the last two years.  To minimize overall impact to the natural spawning population and to ensure hatchery egg-take needs are achieved, the sport fishery will be closed. 

    Other information: Quinault Indian Nation has also closed their commercial fishery in the lower Chehalis River for the remainder of the winter steelhead season.