About the Chehalis Basin Strategy

Sunset over the river

The Chehalis Basin Strategy is a collaborative, science-based process that was created to address the dual challenges of extreme flooding and degraded aquatic species habitat.

The Chehalis Basin Strategy was launched shortly after the devastating floods of 2007 and 2009 that shut down parts of I-5 and destroyed property, put communities and public health and safety at risk, cost hundreds of millions of dollars in economic damages and lost revenue, and overwhelmed fish and wildlife habitat. Learn more about how the Strategy was created.

The Strategy isn’t waiting to complete its recommendations before acting. Important local-scale flood protection and habitat restoration actions have already been implemented, and new projects are underway this year.

By the end of 2020, a Basin-wide suite of interlocking local- and large-scale flood prevention and habitat recovery actions, which are currently under scientific review and policy-level consideration, will be presented to the Governor and Legislature of Washington state.

You can help shape the Strategy by staying updated, helping to refine local-scale recommendations for aquatic species restoration, and weighing in on potential large-scale floodwater protection projects under formal state and federal agency review in 2020.

How the Chehalis Basin Strategy works

The Strategy’s goal is to make the Basin a safer place for families and communities impacted by flooding, and to improve aquatic species habitat now and for future generations.

To do this, the Strategy will employ three key, interrelated approaches across the Basin:

1.  Habitat restoration for salmon and other aquatic species through the projects identified in The Aquatic Species Restoration Plan (ASRP). These are central to every possible approach, and would prioritize habitat restoration for the species that will benefit the most, particularly salmon and steelhead.

2.  Local landowner and community-scale projects to adapt to and limit increasing flood impacts. Local actions to limit flood damage will be embedded in every approach. These actions include flood-proofing homes and buildings, protecting local government infrastructure like roads and drinking water sources, improving flood warning systems, and working with willing landowners to relocate vulnerable structures and acquire or repurpose land to restore natural floodplain functions.

3.  Large-scale measures to prevent potentially disastrous flood episodes. Several options for large-scale flood damage reduction, critical for protection against predicted future catastrophic events, including the partial submersion of I-5 in Lewis County and sea level rise in Grays Harbor, have been reviewed. These include a variety of large infrastructure projects, as well as a restorative approach to strengthen natural systems.

Across the Basin, we’ve celebrated many accomplishments. And in 2019, local and tribal leaders secured $40 million in state funding for additional scientific research and planning to guide the next steps in salmon recovery, as well as to complete more projects to improve and restore critical habitat. Explore an interactive map of the Strategy’s projects.

The Strategy’s next steps

This year is an important year. By the end of 2020, the Chehalis Basin Board, a diverse group of state agency, local, and tribal leaders, will determine how to combine and sequence their priority projects as part of a long-term Strategy. They will also be making a budget recommendation for the next state capital budget cycle.

These recommendations are being informed by Basin residents’ input on the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan and local-scale flood adaptation, as well as by formal state and federal agency review and public comment on large-scale flood protection options. The most recent of these reviews, released in Feb. 2020, evaluates potential environmental impacts of a proposed flood damage reduction project, which includes a flood protection dam and airport levee improvements.

Final decisions have not yet been made. The actions in the table below are being considered to address two major goals: to restore over 200-500 miles of aquatic species habitat and reduce damage from severe flooding.  

Aquatic Species Habitat Restoration

  • Restore over 200-500 miles of habitat by:
    • Restoring and improving habitat for aquatic species
    • Removing barriers and improving fish passage
    • Reconnecting the floodplain

Flood Damage Reduction

  • Local-scale actions:
    • Installing farm pads
    • Protecting critical infrastructure like roads
    • Improving land use and floodplain management
    • Helping basin residents understand flood insurance 
    • Taking integrated early actions
  • Large-scale actions:
    • Proposed Chehalis River Basin Flood Damage Reduction Project
    • Comprehensive Community Flood Assistance and Resilience program
    • Aberdeen Hoquiam North Shore levee
    • Projects to protect regional transportation corridors