Tribe given approval to replace bridge

The Chehalis Basin Flood Authority granted approval Thursday to allow the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation to move forward with replacing the Sickman Ford Bridge, a project that’s been batted about for the past few years and recently received state funding.

The approval was granted during a special telephone meeting. Per a stipulation in last year’s legislatively-approved Capital Budget, both the Flood Authority and the tribe had to agree on the project to secure the $2.3 million in state funding.

The project on South Bank Road, located just outside Oakville in Grays Harbor County, would remove a 250-foot overflow bridge and re-design it to allow flood waters to pass underneath it better, according to a project summary provided by the Flood Authority.

“The location of the bridge and the culvert were chosen specifically to reconnect two historic flood flow channels that were disconnected by the roadway fill,” the summary states. “The bridge structure itself will be designed and installed to be out of the modeled 100-year flood event, so that hydraulic pressures on the bridge will be reduced during flood events.”

The summary notes that creating an overflow bridge will allow flood water passage during high water events and keep South Bank Road open longer.

“There will be a decrease in flood heights directly upstream of the proposed site which should limit the physical damage done to South Bank Road and lessen flood impacts to the Chehalis Reservation during high flow events,” the summary states.

A consultant working for the tribes, Environ, Inc. modeled the impacts of the proposed bridge “and their model shows minor impacts immediately downstream of the project and no measurable impacts further downstream of the site,” according to the the summary. “The impacts immediately below the bridge occur on tribal property and are limited in scope. These impacts are likely to be minor scouring and some increased flood water levels. These minor impacts to tribal lands are acceptable to the tribe.”

One resident on South Bank Road testified against the proposal during the telephone meeting, saying that he didn’t completely trust the model and that it hadn’t been made public on the Flood Authority website.

Thurston County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela said that the independent consultant had no reason to provide faulty data and that the Flood Authority shouldn’t hold up the project based on just one objection. Valenzuela suggested having staff hep the resident acquire the study after the fact.

Ron Averill, the former Lewis County Commissioner who now represents Centralia on the Flood Authority, noted that Flood Authority members recently toured the site and he fully supported the project.

With no objections, the project was approved on a voice vote by the Flood Authority. The Flood Authority is made up of Aberdeen, Cosmopolis, Montesano, Oakville, Centralia, Chehalis, Bucoda, Napavine, Pe Ell, Grays Harbor, Thurston and Lewis counties.

The summary notes on-the-ground construction will begin in early May with the project fully completed by Oct. 1, 2013.