Chehalis Work Group holds lunchtime flood meeting in Olympia

OLYMPIA — The Chehalis Work Group on Friday continued its outreach efforts with a 45-minute, lunchtime presentation of its proposed flood mitigation plan — which must receive Legislative support if the group is to receive its requested $28 million.

Facilitated by work group members David Burnett and J. Vander Stoep, the presentation was attended by more than 40 people, including members of the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority and local legislators, such as Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis; Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia; Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama; Rep. Dean Takko, D-Longview; and Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen.

Vander Stoep, speaking to the crowded room, said that adopting the group’s portfolio of flood mitigation projects — in its entirety — is essential for the safety and future of the Chehalis River Basin.

“The recommendation and the strong request from the diverse group that has put this package together is that it be treated as a package,” he said. “It’s kind of like a jigsaw puzzle.”

The five-pronged portfolio of projects, intended to ease the impacts of flooding both long- and short-term, was allotted $28 million by former Gov. Chris Gregoire in her outgoing Capital Budget.

But how much money the Legislature will choose to allocate is not yet known.

“We recognize that we’re here asking for a whole lot of money in an environment where there’s just not a lot of money,” Burnett, the chairman of the Chehalis Tribe, said. “So, not only is (flooding) an emotionally challenging thing, but we recognize that it’s a financially challenging thing. But we also really believe that this is important.”

Vickie Raines, a member of the work group and the chair of the Flood Authority, emphasized that the plan was reached with basinwide support.

“I can tell you that while the presentation today has been by the Chehalis Work Group … (it was made) with the consensus and agreement of the Flood Authority,” Raines said. “The turn has been made, in the last couple years, to really try to understand one another’s feelings and perspectives, and look at the basin as a whole.”