Chehalis Basin Partnership discusses creating nonprofit

ROCHESTER — At the end of June, the Chehalis Basin Partnership’s $75,000 Department of Ecology grant will run out, leaving the Partnership without a stable funding source.

For the last three years, the Partnership has run solely on the Ecology grant.

At its regular meeting in the Lucky Eagle Casino here March 22, members of the Partnership discussed establishing a nonprofit as a conduit to new grants.

The group has discussed the creation of a nonprofit for several years, but could never find a way around one troubling issue: losing control over policy decisions once the nonprofit controls the group’s money.

Miles Batchelder, executive director of the Washington Coast Sustainable Salmon Partnership, presented a solution.

In a powerpoint, he explained how his group and the Nisqually River Foundation both wrote, into their articles of incorporation, limits on their nonprofits’ spending and requirements that financial decisions must first be approved by the founding group.

The Chehalis Basin Partnership could follow a similar model, Partnership Coordinator Janel Bistrika said.

“The group was really happy with the presentation and really excited that their concerns were addressed and knowing that we have options,” she said.

Writing its own articles of incorporation would be the next step for the Partnership, should it decide to proceed with establishing a nonprofit, according to Bistrika.

On March 22, the group also discussed future leadership.

Bistrika, the group’s coordinator for the last five years, will leave at the end of June.

The Partnership has not yet decided where her replacement will be based or who will be the employer. Grays Harbor College, Centralia College and the Chehalis Tribe all are potential employers.

Bistrika suggested the Tribe.

“At the Tribe, we’ve got folks who have been engaged throughout the entire process,” she said, “and I’m pretty confident they’ll be interested in what we’re doing for the next decade or two.”

“They’ve offered a tremendous amount of support,” she added.

Mike Kelly, of Grays Harbor College, suggested that a location along the Interstate 5 corridor might be best.

“I think it’s great we have three options,” Partnership Chair and Mayor of Centralia Bonnie Canaday said. “It’s much better than having … to go out and recruit people.”

The Chehalis Basin Partnership was formed in 1998, under the Watershed Management Act, to allow citizens, interest groups and government organizations to collaborate on finding solutions to water-related issues.

Grays Harbor County is the designated lead agency and fiscal agent for the Partnership.