February 8, 1997
To: The Editor
Centralia WA 98531
The history of flooding of homes, businesses and roads in the Chehalis-Centralia area is, in part, the history of human folly. Margaret Holm Rader's article (February Drops of Water), reminds us that the confluence of Salzer Creek and the Chehalis River was known historically to be a natural flood basin in winter. Even with this knowledge, governments and businesses continued to fill this large "lake" with millions of cubic yards of soil, as if they did not know, or care, that for every cubic yard of fill, a cubic yard of flood water would be displaced to somewhere else. Now, at a time of increasingly rapid run-off and heavy precipitation, there is less and less open space for the water to move into, and the result is flooding at unprecedented frequencies and depths.
Human activities have made a right mess of things, and "corrective" action always repeats the original mistakes. The proposal to raise I-5, the 1996 airport fill, the Wal-Mart fiasco, all share a common mentality: "I ll raise my property above the flood. Sure, this may increase my neighbor's flooding, but I will be high and dry."
Business interests in the floodplain have been so damaged by their own bad judgment, that they have now formed a Flood Action Council (FAC) to seek solutions. Proposals trickling out of the FAC are alarming and ill-conceived. They propose to ease the flood pressure in the Twin Cities by shifting it upstream behind a dam at Doty, and by speeding it downstream by dredging the Chehalis River. When citizens objected to these proposals, Ron Sharp, FAC program director, asked them to " use a broader interpretation of the word community than just their immediate neighbors." ("West county residents want out of flood district," The Chronicle, February 8, 1997.) But what is Mr. Sharp's notion of "community" when he proposes to flood others lands to spare his own? When he asks citizens throughout a broad flood district to pay to correct the past excesses of a few local businessmen, politicians, and transportation planners? When he asks all taxpayers in America to share in the cost of dam construction, river dredging, etc.? Natural disasters are one thing, but our local flooding problems in the Twin Cities are man-made disasters stemming from a muleheaded refusal to accept the laws of nature.
Another thing about neighborliness, if there is to be a flood district, shouldn t it be voted upon by all the people affected? How do Thurston and Grays Harbor citizens feel about an unknown increase in water moving through their communities at peak flow periods?
The FAC is getting off to a bad start. It is proposing solutions before it understands the problems. It should disband and request that a truly representative intercounty council be appointed by the Commissioners of all the counties concerned. Planning should be deliberate. The present council would stampede us into precipitous action by declaring that state and federal monies may disappear. This is not true, but even if it were, it would not be a reason to rush into ill-considered "solutions."
Mack Knutsen, Ph.D.
3414 Centralia Alpha Rd
Onalaska WA 98570
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