January 10, 1997
To Jonathan Nelson
To The Editor:
I've bit my tongue for a few days thinking about the flood control article (page A3, Jan. 7) and some of the data reported as fact.
In particular I am concerned that reader's are told that there is a 900 square mile basin that includes all of the watersheds that drain into the Chehalis River. With that information they are led to believe that flooding can be controlled and risk eliminated.
The Chehalis River is part of the 2nd largest watershed in Washington. Only the Columbia is larger. The total watershed is 2,600+ square miles and is part of 8 (eight) counties. Within this watershed there are 13 (thirteen) major subbasins. Each subbasin is a watershed. The Chehalis River simply cannot be described as a single watershed. It is part of each of the 13 subbasins.
As Commissioner Graham said "..people are waiting to see the proposed boundaries". The 'proposed boundaries' will simply be additional taxing jurisdiction lines on a map. The river does not recognize city limits or county lines. After this most recent siege of winter storms, anyone would have to question a proposal spend millions to build dikes, raise dams, or speed the water downstream. Money can not stop water.
The only appropriate and cost effective mitigation for floods is to limit further floodplain development. People like me, who were dumb enough to buy permitted property in the floodplain, will have to bite the bullet. Will I like it? No!
But is it reasonable to build a dam or levee to protect me when that same dam or levee will flood my downstream neighbor? Yet Graham and Brumsickle concede the benefits are primarily for Centralia and Chehalis - so does that mean Centralia and Chehalis residents now consider Rochester, Oakville, Elma, etc. the dumping ground for flood water? Is southwest Washington really going to be divided into two more nations - Dry and Wet?
How can this proposal be taken seriously? The issues we face are regional! I've organized, sat in on, and have participated in attempts to initiate regional flood planning. Unfortunately no regional flood planning is taking place.
In my opinion none of the elected or appointed local government representatives wants to consider any solution outside of their realm of influence. None of the three Chehalis river counties wants to limit development in the flood plain for fear or risk of losing growth from future development, even though that growth will come at a terrible price to all who suffer, and they will suffer, because the river always wins.
So far the river has been kind. We have only lost property or animals. Will the river be so kind next time? Will that young family who buys a new home in the floodplain get their children out in time? Will our leaders, the developer, the builder and the tax collector be able to face the parents who lose a child in the next flood? Remember, the river always wins.
Thank you for your time and attention,
7475 State Route 12
For the record, and to be above board with you, I also serve as volunteer chairman of the Chehalis River Council. I am writing this letter as an individual, but I don't want to hide the fact that I am deeply involved in water and water quality issues as a volunteer.