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Chehalis Dam Proposal: Another Comment Period Is Currently Open

Posted: 11/11/2020
By: Thomas O'Keefe

Haven't I already commented on this dam proposal? Yes, you may have already commented on the proposal for a massive new dam on the Chehalis River, but despite a letter from Governor Inslee tapping the brakes in July 2020, the environmental review process continues. While the state agencies have paused their efforts to consider a new dam on the Chehalis River, the Army Corps of Engineers is currently accepting public comment on the proposal. The dam would inundate an outstanding Class III whitewater run, one of the longer stretches of continuous whitewater in the state and is broadly opposed by tribes and our partners in the conservation community.


Please make a comment by November 17th to ensure your voice is heard:


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Background


The Chehalis is well known for its wild salmon and steelhead runs as well as its history of devastating floods. The proposal for a new dam is part of an effort to reduce future flood damage by the Chehalis River Basin Flood Control Zone District. The recently-published Environmental Impact Statement states that a new dam on the Chehalis River would result in a "high direct impact from loss of 6 miles of river [actually more] no longer open for boating." The analysis also highlights the fact that the project would have "high direct impacts to anadromous salmonids" and particularly on spring-run Chinook at the Chehalis Basin scale. These represent unacceptable impacts that will directly impact my use and enjoyment of the Chehalis River.


The impacts and cost are high, yet the benefits of the proposed dam are comparatively small. The dam will not stop floods, and the areas that have been heavily impacted by past floods will continue to experience significant flooding. The proposed project won't generate hydropower, won't store water for irrigation use, and won't provide any recreation opportunities. In short, the project is an expensive and ill-conceived effort to address a complex problem that can't be solved by a new dam.


In July 2020, and following an environmental review of the project by Washington State, Governor Inslee directed both the Washington Department of Ecology and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to pause the environmental review process. He directed the state agencies to use remaining funding within the Office of the Chehalis Basin to assist the Chehalis Basin Board in the development of a non-dam alternative to address the complex issues facing the Chehalis Basin.


We need to ensure federal agencies get the same message and encourage American Whitewater members and all who love rivers to comment on this ill-conceived project before the November 17th deadline. We have also included a template for your to thank Governor Inslee in calling for a new approach that does not include a dam. If you have been fortunate enough to paddle the Chehalis River, please be sure to include your personal insights on this irreplaceable whitewater resource.


Associated Projects

Chehalis

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

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Associated Rivers

Chehalis, E. Fork WA
Chehalis, W. Fork WA
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