Inslee budget includes GHC, Flood Authority funds

OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposals would fully fund the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority and puts Grays Harbor College in a position to construct a new science and math building.

Both projects had been recommended by Inslee’s predecessor, former Gov. Chris Gregoire, but just about everyone involved with those projects had their fingers crossed that Inslee would continue the trend. The state Senate and state House have yet to release their budgets, but that should happen in the coming days. All of the proposals must survive the budget negotiation process and be signed into law.

Grays Harbor College worked on the preliminary design work for the new building last year to replace its outdated 300 Building. The state capital budget includes $47.2 million for construction. The new building will house all the physical and life science, nursing, natural resources, mathematics and art programs. There’s also funding for roof repairs and preservation work at the college’s other buildings from a larger pot of money.

The capital budget also includes $265,000 to make improvements to the door and gate operating system at the Stafford Creek Correctional Center.

The $28.202 million allocation for the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority is the biggest bonus in the budget. Flood Authority members were worried that Inslee may have other priorities and would strip away funding to reduce the funding requests dramatically.

Flood Authority Chairwoman Vickie Raines had personally visited several legislators gathering support for the authority’s funding.

The funding is a bit personal for Raines, who is also mayor of Cosmopolis, since the request also contains $2.25 million to fix the Mill Creek Dam, which breached years ago.

Altogether, the budget contains $15.092 million to construct priority local flood protection projects, including multipurpose projects that reduce flood damage and benefit fish habitat. Besides Mill Creek Dam, there’s $2.642 million to work on a flood levee on Wishkah Road, located just outside Aberdeen.

There’s $584,000 to do work on the overflow bridge on Wakefield Bridge and to install a culvert in nearby Porter Creek in the Elma-Porter area, which could help several farms in the area and Briggs Nursery. A dike along Market Street in Aberdeen would get $670,000 and a dike behind the Burger King would get $410,000.

The City of Montesano would get $2 million to do final design, permitting and construction to provide better flood protection on the Mary’s River Mill property, which sits along the Chehalis River.

“I’m ecstatic, this is something we had been working on for a long, long time,” Montesano Mayor Ken Estes said.

The potential funds also include $9.2 million to design alternatives for large capital flood projects. That could mean more work to be done on a potential earthen dam on the upper Chehalis River, but it may also mean potential flood walls to protect Interstate 5.

There’s $1.75 million which can be used to reduce damage to residential and other structures in the floodplain, through flood proofing and a new buyout program, which would need to be implemented. Plus, there another $2.16 million that could be used for state agency technical assistance, stakeholder project management, project support, and coordination, including the continued funding to the Flood Authority.

“I am grateful that Governor Inslee sees the importance of flood reduction and mitigation on the Chehalis River,” Raines wrote in an email to her fellow Flood Authority members. “While there is still a month remaining in the Session, I am hopeful that this package will receive support. Thanks to everyone involved for your continued diligence in the efforts of this very important issue that affects so many on the Chehalis River.”