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 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.