Advisory Committee Chairman to the Flood Zone District
Report on the DRAFT EIS from the last meeting
Points I (John Henricksen) would like everyone to think about with regards to the draft EIS (Environmental Impact Statement)
It’s hard for people to focus today on flooding, which has not hit our communities for a decade. But, today, we are one day closer to the next catastrophic flood. The kind of damage we saw in 1990, 1996 and 2007 can be prevented. This flood risk has hung like a cloud over our economic future for decades, and it is a risk that is nearly certain to harm thousands of our friends and families again if we don’t act.
Lewis County’s Flood Zone District has proposed two actions: 1. Building a flood reduction facility above Pe Ell. This facility would only be used, only impound water and create a temporary reservoir, on average once every 7-10 years during times of peak flood flows. At all other times, the gates will be open and with the river would flowing through at its standard rate and volume, allowing fish passage up and downriver. 2. Raising the Centralia-Chehalis airport levee, which is needed to protect the portion of Chehalis east of the levee and I-5. These two actions are the “Proposed Action” evaluated by the EIS.
The Draft SEPA EIS found that, with the Proposed Action, 1,280 existing structures of value and approximately 3,795 acres would be protected from flooding risk during a catastrophic flood. These 1280 structures include schools, homes, churches, small businesses, nursing homes. Most are homes. 1.7 people, on average, live in each house in Lewis and Grays Harbor County. This means that the flood retention structure would protect about 2000 people from having their homes flooded. And these homes that would be protected, according to the EIS, are much more likely to be occupied by low-income families who can least afford the loss of most of their personal belongings and much of their home value.
Lewis County EDC estimates that the difference between proceeding with the Proposed Action will save $10.5 billion, which will be lost under the No Action alternative.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conducts a census of salmon and steelhead each year in the Chehalis Basin. In the last four years, this census has reported finding 20 Spring Chinook salmon above the proposed dam site, for an average of 5 per year. The average number of spawning eggs (redds) said during that time on this stretch of the river is 1.5. The EIS finds that Climate Change will negatively impact Spring Chinook and other salmon runs in the upper basin because the water temperatures will be too high in the future. The EIS estimates that climate change will result in an 87% decrease in Spring Chinook in the area of the proposed facility. So the No Action Alternative will mean the reduction of the current annual 5 Spring Chinook spawners to .5 of a fish (87% loss of 5 fish). The EIS estimates that the impact of Climate Change plus the proposed facility will reduce the numbers of Spring Chinook spawners by 97% or, down to .15 of a fish.
With regards to mitigation and ASRP – The pessimistic numbers above do not take into account any mitigation that will be required if the Proposed Action goes forward. This mitigation would include creating more shade and water cooling measures. The pessimistic numbers also do not take into account the Aquatic Species Recover Plan that is being developed at the same time to restore habitat for hundreds of miles in the basin. The earlier Programmatic EIS showed that doing both these flood damage reduction measures and the ASRP together will result in both an enhanced fishery and protected communities in the basin.