The Washington Department of Ecology has finished its draft environmental review of a proposal by the Chehalis River Basin Flood Control Zone District to reduce damage from major floods in Chehalis and Centralia.

The Flood District proposed to build a flood retention dam and temporary reservoir on the Chehalis River near Pe Ell, and make changes around the Chehalis-Centralia Airport that include raising the levee.

Ecology is sharing the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for public review and comment through April 27. Documents are available and comments can be submitted online at the project website.

The proposed project is one of an array of small- and large-scale projects and short- and long-term actions the Chehalis Basin Boardwill consider as it develops the Chehalis Basin Strategy to reduce flood-related damage and restore aquatic species habitat throughout the Chehalis River basin.

Draft State Environmental Review Out for Review February 27 – April 27, 2020

The draft state environmental review of the proposed Chehalis River Basin Flood Damage Reduction Project is now out for an extended 61-day public review and comment period through April 27, 2020.

Proposed Changes

The Chehalis River Basin Flood Control Zone District proposed constructing a flood retention dam and associated temporary reservoir on the Chehalis River near Pe Ell, and making changes to the Chehalis-Centralia Airport levee. Ecology’s state draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyzed how the proposal is likely to affect the environment under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). More detail is below, and Ecology’s focus sheet has an overview of the findings of the draft EIS.

The Chehalis Board will consider the environmental review, as well as other information sources, to evaluate social, economic, and other public interest considerations to guide the protective and restorative strategy for the basin.

Climate change will drive more frequent, higher flood levels and put native fish runs at higher risk in the future—absent significant restoration efforts. Ecology has integrated climate change impacts into the EIS analysis of future conditions where the proposed dam would operate.

The EIS found the Flood District’s project would reduce flooding to buildings and infrastructure, including U.S. Interstate 5. It also would have significant adverse effects, mainly along the Chehalis River in the area above the proposed dam and below it to the confluence with the South Fork of the Chehalis River.

 The EIS found the project would have adverse effects on:

·        Salmon and other fish, and their habitat

·        Some wildlife, such as amphibians

·        Water quality

·        The Chehalis River channel

·        Recreation

The project would also increase greenhouse gas emissions and could significantly impact tribal and cultural resources.

Several impacts from the proposal would be unavoidable unless measures to offset them are determined feasible and meet regulatory requirements. This would be determined during future permitting processes by permitting agencies.

Ecology will hold two public hearings on the draft EIS, including an open house and presentation about the study’s findings:

·        Centralia – March 31, 5 to 8:30 p.m., Centralia College, 600 Centralia College Boulevard.

·        Montesano – April 2, 5 to 8:30 p.m., Montesano Jr. Sr. High School, 303 N. Church St.

Besides submitting comments online or at an upcoming public hearing, comments can also be mailed to:

Chehalis River Basin Flood Damage Reduction Project EIS

Anchor QEA

1201 Third Ave., Suite 2600

Seattle, WA 98101

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is doing a separate environmental review of the Flood District’s proposal under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The federal draft review is planned to be released in September 2020.