Chehalis 1996 Flood Plan County criticizes area flood plan

Three counties meet: The full effects of possible flood-control projects remain largely uncharted.

By Joel Coffidis, The Olympian February 6, 1997

The Olympian

Thurston County officials criticized proposals Wednesday aimed at stopping flooding in Centralia and Chehalis in Lewis County.

The proposals, in the order in which they'd be built:

Create a gated flood release outlet at the Skookumchuck Dam in Thurston County to increase the water storage capacity at the dam.
Speed the Chehalis River by digging a deeper channel downstream of the Skookumchuck River
Build a 100-foot high dam on the Chehalis River near Doty aimed at allowing controlled water released.

But such a dam could worsen flooding in the Grand Mound Rochester area in Thurston County, Thurston County officials said.

"There's so many questions that we don't know," Thurston County Commissioner Dick Nichols said. "I'm not comfortable with the whole process."

"There isn't any analysis that says this will be bad or good," added Gordon White, county water resources program manager.

To allow the dam or any of the proposals to go ahead, there would have to be a flood district in Lewis County to make decisions on flood control.

Thurston County officials met with commissioners from Lewis and Grays Harbor counties Wednesday, as well as members of the Flood Action Council, a private business group in Lewis County.

The business group has asked Lewis County commissioners to put a plan to form a flood district on a special ballot April 22.

A flood district is a separate governmental entity.

In this case, it would have three elected commissioners from Lewis County to manage flooding problems.

The flood district would have specific boundaries, and commissioners' authority would be limited by the boundaries.

Thurston County officials said the flood district should be put on hold until more information on the proposal's effects in surrounding areas is available.

But Lewis County commissioners said state law provides for the voters to decide and that moving quickly to create the district could mean a better chance at state and federal money.

Bill Brumsickle, president of the Flood Action Council business group, assured Thurston County officials that none of the three projects expected to cost about $100 million will move forward until more studies are done.

The group wants to move fast because the state has indicated it wants to raise Interstate 5 because of flooding problems, Brumsickle said.

Money for the freeway project could go toward the flood proposal if a district gets approved.

And more money could be available if the flood district gets approved now, Brumsickle said.

C.S. Sodhi, director of natural resources for the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, said he's concerned that a dam will hurt fish runs.

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