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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.