Recent heavy rain and high waters have provided a trial run for the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority, a chance to see if its variety of small, local improvements impact flooding.
For the most part, the Flood Authority discovered, its completed projects have kept things flowing smoothly.
It’s tangible proof of progress — a relief for the group that faces frequent public criticism for what has been perceived as a lack of action.
During the Flood Authority’s February meeting, held via conference call Thursday, Bucoda representative Alan Vanell said his town saw significant improvements.
“The water came up but not nearly as high as 2009,” Vanell said. “It was well below danger levels. There were just a lot of deadhead trees going down the river, but there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund reported that an Adna resident wrote to her to say that his property had remained dry.
“The person in Adna said the water was flowing well and there were no problems,” Fund said.
She also received feedback, however, that the Flood Authority’s early warning system is not user friendly.
Napavine representative Lionel Pinn agreed, and Centralia representative Ron Averill added that transportation must become a focus of the emergency level communication.
“There were no real problems in Centralia, and I think the reporting is very helpful, but we need to look at road closures,” he said. “Our system of letting folks know what roads are closed, particularly during non-working hours, needs to be tightened up.”
Communication, not just during emergencies, is a focus for the Flood Authority.
Fund reported that, as the head of the education and outreach committee, she is organizing a second round of presentations to jurisdictions throughout the basin.
And, this May, the Authority will host the first of its two planned public meeting sets.
The meetings, in May and September, will begin with an open house in the afternoon.
Various state and local departments will set up booths and be on hand to discuss specific projects.
Later that evening, the event will transition into a formal presentation, according to Flood Authority Facilitator Jim Kramer.
“People can sit and listen to all the information from our feasibility analysis,” Kramer said. “In May, that will be topics including dam design, cost, benefits, impacts and other alternatives.”
The September presentation will focus on the conclusions of that study.
There will be at least two meetings — one in the upper basin, one in the lower — in both the spring and the fall.