Lewis County-area lawmakers are facing the possibility that the county will have to fix Chehalis River Basin flooding issues by itself, without help from Thurston and Grays Harbor counties.
Time is running out before the Legislature’s June imposed deadline to form the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority’s successor of a multi-jurisdictional flood taxing district. Grays Harbor and Thurston counties haven’t received the local support to form their individual districts, while the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation vacated their seat on the flood authority last week.
“I think the perception is we don’t have the support from Grays Harbor County and Thurston County,” said Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester.
The flood authority drafted a piece of legislation that Swecker pushed through that would allow counties to link individual flood-control zone districts together to form a single large flood taxing district. Senate Bill 5265 passed through the Senate and working its way through committees in the House. But if Thurston and Grays Harbor counties aren’t involved, the legislation won’t mean much.
“I still feel the best way is for all the counties to work together,” said Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Thurston County. “But I know there are tensions.”
The absence of the Chehalis tribe on the authority could hamper attempts to move forward with structural flood solutions, in particular dams.
The Chehalis tribe resigned from the flood authority March 17 during the group’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting. Mark White, natural resources director for the tribe, called some recent actions by the authority a “political and economic show.”
Swecker said the disharmony may leave no other option than to have Lewis County continue with a solution on its own.
“Ultimately, I think we have the support from the state to go forward with a project,” he said.