With one year until they must submit to the governor a comprehensive plan, flood experts are focused on a proposed water retention structure on the Upper Chehalis.

Gathered at the Great Wolf Lodge on Wednesday, leaders analyzed basinwide water conditions, including historic water patterns and possible future behavior, and took stock of current fish populations and their habitats.

The gathering, the first of three workshops, included members of the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority, the Governor’s Work Group and representatives from the Department of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife.

Though the proposed dam would be built on the Upper Chehalis near Pe Ell, the scope of the group’s work encompasses the entire basin, an ecosystem with diverse, complicated needs.

Flood leaders currently are looking at the technical feasibility of a water retention structure, including its size and functions

Should the dam be constructed, the group wants to know how it would affect aquatic species, the environment and man-made infrastructure.

In one month, the Governor’s Work Group must produce a technical memo and approve the proposed methodology.

Its draft report must be completed by June of 2014, finalized by August and presented in November.

Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year approved the Work Group’s funding request: $9.2 million for the study and design of a dam and other long-term projects to improve Interstate 5; $10.7 million for local flood protection projects; $4.4 million for projects that reduce flooding while benefiting fish; $1.75 million for reducing damage to residences and other structures in the floodplain; $1.2 million for operation of the basin program and for project management; and $950,000 for state agency technical assistance and project permitting.

Former Gov. Chris Gregoire included full funding in her 2013-2015 Outgoing Capital Budget.

Members of the Work Group include: Vickie Raines, the Flood Authority chairwoman; Karen Valenzuela, the vice chair of the Flood Authority; J. Vander Stoep, an alternate to the Flood Authority; David Burnett, the chair of the Chehalis Tribe; Jay Gordon, the head of the Washington Dairy Farmers Association; and Keith Phillips, an adviser to the governor.

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