American Whitewater is strongly opposed to any new dam on the Chehalis River.
A 250-foot high and 210-foot wide dam with a 720-acre reservoir is being considered for the Chehalis River as a response to flooding in the basin. While modeling suggests the dam would reduce flood impacts, it would not eliminate them and in our view would only further encourage development in the floodplain.
Ecosystem Impacts of a Chehalis River Dam
The impacts on mainstem spawning and rearing habitat for salmon and steelhead would be significant with proposed clearcutting within the reservoir footprint and complete removal of riparian vegetation. Impacts, including those from associated road-building, would include increased sediment delivery, reduced shading, increased summer water temperatures, altered hydrology and sediment transport, impacts to spawning and rearing habitat, and extensive loss of riparian habitat. Clearcutting tributary junctions would negatively impact biological hotspots and have a disproportionate impact on biodiversity.
Impacts to fishery resources would include loss or destruction of spawning habitat and salmon redds when the reservoir is filled, impaired accessibility to critical cold water rearing habitat, salmon and steelhead redd scouring immediately downstream of the dam, fragmentation of habitat with reduced floodplain connectivity and complexity, loss of riparian forest and associated ecosystem services, precluded opportunities to restore the health of the riparian forest, new fish passage challenges, and severe disruption of sediment transport essential to the maintenance of fish habitat.
Recreational Impacts of a Chehalis River Dam
A new dam on the Chehalis River would permanently foreclose use of this reach of the Chehalis River for whitewater kayaking and rafting. While current access policies implemented by Weyerhaeuser restrict access, our vision for the future is a river that is open and accessible and not lost permanently under the slackwater of a reservoir. We encourage the state to work with private forest land owners to enhance recreational opportunities on rivers that flow through commercial timberlands. Outdoor recreation is important to our quality of life in the Pacific Northwest. We should be seeking ways to improve opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation and access to our waterways and not further limit them.
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