After weeks of review, the Wild Steelhead Coalition submitted its official comments today on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the proposed Chehalis dam project. These comments expound on the litany of shortcomings with the DEIS as well as our general concerns with this misguided proposal, which we believe fails the wild steelhead and salmon of the Chehalis Basin, and the many Washingtonians who value them.
While we greatly appreciate the Chehalis River Basin Flood Control Zone District’s attempt to mitigate flood risk in the Chehalis Basin, we strongly believe the proposed dam is the wrong approach. The scale and magnitude of environmental degradation the proposed dam would generate, especially to wild steelhead and salmon populations, is simply unacceptable – a fact that the DEIS makes abundantly clear by demonstrating that the proposed dam would cause irreparable harm to the basin’s entire ecosystem.
This environmental destruction is too substantial, especially when you consider the insufficient flood protection the proposed dam would provide. Based on the modeling in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the number of structures inundated during major flooding and catastrophic flood events is still incredibly high. And with an expected price tag of $628 million, this dam would be a huge burden on taxpayers and deliver only minimal benefits in return.
Our comments also discuss how the DEIS fails to include viable mitigation measures to address the unacceptable level of environmental destruction the proposed dam would cause. Not only does this shortcoming seriously impair the ability of the public and state agencies to make informed judgments about the long-term effects of this proposed project, but it raises serious concerns about the technical feasibility and economic practicality of mitigation efforts. This gaping hole in the DEIS, as well an array of other omissions and shortcomings, render this document far too incomplete to be used as the basis to approve the proposed project.
It is important to note that although the DEIS is heavily flawed and the proposed dam is the wrong approach to address flood risk in the Chehalis Basin, we believe it is critically important that we develop solutions for mitigating flood damage. Doing nothing is simply not an option. As a result, we strongly encouraged the Chehalis Basin Board to go back to the drawing board and assemble, in partnership with stakeholders, local action alternatives that accomplish the dual goal of reducing flood impacts and restoring aquatic ecosystems.
You can read the entirety of the Wild Steelhead Coalition’s official comments below. And to learn more about this issue, please visit the Chehalis River Alliance’s website.