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New Dam Proposed for Chehalis River (WA)

Posted: 11/09/2016
by Thomas O'Keefe

The Chehalis Basin is the second largest river basin in Washington State. It is a uniquely fertile and abundant river basin, but it has suffered from devastating flooding for decades. One proposal to address the chronic flooding issue is construction of a new dam that would represent the largest new dam in Washington State in years on a currently free-flowing river.
The Washington Department of Ecology is currently accepting public comment on this proposal for a new massive dam on the Chehalis River. The dam would inundate an outstanding Class III whitewater run, one of the longer stretches of continuous whitewater in the state. Although the river is currently difficult to access due to the need to secure an expensive permit issued by the forest landowner, we believe blocking this river by a dam and inundating several miles under a reservoir will be bad for fish and the overall health of th is spectacular river, and will preclude future opportunities to realize its recreational potential. Importantly, the flood control benefits are relatively small given the expense and environmetnal impact of this project.
As an alternative, American Whitewater supports actions evaluated in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that include projects to reduce flooding and closures of I-5, airport levee improvements for the Chehalis-Centralia Airport, an Aberdeen/Hoquiam North Shore Levee, and Restorative Flood Protection that is intended to rebuild some of the lost natural flood storage capacity of the river by reconnecting the river with its floodplain and enhancing natural flood storage. We also support reducing local-scale flood damage through elevating buildings in the floodplain, buying frequently flood-damaged properties from willing landowners, and land use management policies to limit new development in the floodplain. Finally, the EIS includes actions to restore degraded aquatic species habitat that we support
Please Comment Today!
We've made it easy for you to file a comment here! Comments are due by November 14th.
We encourage American Whitewater members to comment on this proposed project indicating opposition to the dams and support for alternatives that include restorative flood protection; investment in projects that include I-5 protection, the airport levee, and Aberdeen/Hoquiam North Shore levee; and local-scale projects that include land management policies that discourage development in the floodplain.
If you have run the Chehalis please include a comment on the quality of the whitewater and recreational resource. The EIS states that the “Flood Retention Facility [the dam] would permanently foreclose use of this reach of the Chehalis River for whitewater rafters for health and safety reasons,” and also notes that “this reach of the river is generally not used for kayaking because of access limitations.” The implication is that the project would not impact whitewater recreation due to current low use numbers that result from access limitations. Please include a comment that advocates for a future where this reach of river is open and accessible and not lost permanently under the slackwater of a reservoir.
Learn More
EIS Library with more documents and background
Thomas O'Keefe
3537 NE 87th St.
Seattle, WA 98115
Phone: 425-417-9012

Associated Projects

American Whitewater is committed to the stewardship and conservation of the Chehalis River where a new dam is proposed.

Associated Rivers

Chehalis WA