The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) is preparing a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for the Chehalis Basin Strategy. A draft programmatic EIS was released September 29, 2016, followed by an opportunity for public and agency review and comment through November 14, 2016. Click here to view the draft Programmatic EIS and all comments received on the draft. We anticipate releasing the final programmatic EIS in 2017.
The programmatic EIS will identify and study possible effects of the potential actions in the Chehalis Basin Strategy on people and the environment – both positive and negative. The recommendation to prepare a programmatic SEPA EIS came from the Chehalis Basin Work Group’s 2014 Recommendation Report and was then supported by the Washington State Legislature in their 2015-2017 budget.
A “programmatic” EIS analyzes the effects of broader planning decisions or connected actions, instead of one specific project, as is the case for the Chehalis Basin Strategy. Ecology is developing the programmatic EIS to look at the effects of the proposed actions basin-wide, instead of how one individual project will impact one particular area.
The programmatic EIS will assess these program-level effects related to implementing an integrated flood damage reduction and aquatic species habitat restoration strategy in the Chehalis River Basin. These two objectives are combined into a single Strategy because actions to restore habitat and reduce flood damage are focused in the floodplain of the Chehalis River and tributaries; actions for one objective can beneficially or negatively affect the other. The programmatic EIS will assess how different combinations of actions together meet the dual purposes of flood damage reduction and aquatic species habitat restoration.
A range of potential alternatives were refined during the scoping process, and are being analyzed in the programmatic EIS:
- Alternative 1: 2014 Governor’s Work Group (Work Group’s) Recommendation, which includes a plan to: 1) provide large-scale flood damage reduction projects (including a flood retention facility (dam) and improving the Airport Levee, and the Aberdeen/Hoquiam North Shore Levee) that target a broad geographic area; 2) provide local-scale flood damage reduction projects with more localized benefits and implement non-structural actions that reduce flood damage; and 3) restore habitat for aquatic species.
- Alternative 2: Structural Flood Protection without a Flood Retention Facility, which includes the same action elements as the Work Group’s proposed strategy described in Alternative 1, except no flood retention facility (dam) would be constructed. To reduce flooding of I-5 during a 100-year flood event in the absence of a flood retention facility (dam), other infrastructure projects would be implemented along I-5, including levees, walls, and berms.
- Alternative 3: Nonstructural Flood Protection, which represents a nonstructural approach to reducing flood damage. This alternative focuses on breaking the cycle of repetitive flood damage and recovery by protecting structures and their contents and keeping occupants safe during floods. This alternative includes the implementation of local-scale flood damage reduction action elements (flood-proofing and buyouts, local projects, land use management and flood warning system improvements) and aquatic species habitat restoration. This alternative assumes that all action elements described in Alternatives 1 and 2, except for the large-scale flood damage reduction actions (Flood Retention Facility (dam), Airport Levee improvements, I-5 Projects, or the Aberdeen/Hoquiam North Shore levee), are implemented.
- Alternative 4: Restorative Flood Protection, which includes using natural features such as vegetation, large wood and restored floodplains to store and slow the flow of water within the Basin and to reduce downstream flooding. This alternative also assumes that all action elements described in Alternative 3 are implemented.
- Alternative 5: No Action, which is intended to represent what is likely to happen if an integrated program of actions as proposed in the Strategy are not implemented. Under the No Action Alternative, recent increased levels of legislative funding for actions to address flood damage and habitat improvements in the Chehalis Basin would not continue. Instead, funding for flood damage reduction and habitat improvements would be reduced to historic levels after June 30, 2017.
A draft programmatic EIS was released September 29, 2016, followed by an opportunity for public and agency review and comment through November 14, 2016. Click here to view the draft Programmatic EIS and all comments received on the draft. We anticipate releasing the final programmatic EIS in 2017.
Ecology published a Determination of Significance in the Washington State Environmental Policy Act Register on September 18, 2015.
For more detailed information about the SEPA process, visit the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Chehalis Basin Strategy Environmental Review web page.