Chehalis Basin Strategy progress in review: Chehalis-Centralia Airport pump station replacement


It has been more than 15 years since the devastating flooding of December 2007 in the Chehalis River Basin. 

In the time since, residents, businesses, tribes and government entities — with funding and support from Office of Chehalis Basin (OCB) — have worked together toward mitigating the risks of future flood damage. At the same time, OCB has spearheaded efforts to protect and expand habitat for aquatic species. 

While much public attention has been on the proposed water retention structure on the Chehalis River near Pe Ell, there have been more than 130 local fish and habitat projects completed in the basin. OCB receives legislative funding and then allocates dollars for local flood and fish projects.

The OCB board is composed of local officials as well as tribal and environmental representatives. The projects are done in cooperation with the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority, local governments, tribes and the Aquatic Species Restoration team.  

Together, these projects are action steps of the Chehalis Basin Strategy to restore aquatic species and to reduce flood damage for families and communities.

In partnership with the Office of Chehalis Basin and its Chehalis Basin Strategy, The Chronicle will begin featuring individual projects in the weeks and months ahead as a way of updating residents on progress in the basin when it comes to flood mitigation and habitat restoration. 

Today, we begin this series with the Chehalis-Centralia Airport pump station replacement project. 



The Chehalis-Centralia Airport pump station replacement project involved the design and replacement of the World War II-era airport pump station located at the northeast corner of the Chehalis-Centralia Airport property. During the 2007 flood event, the pump house was submerged, failed to operate and was subsequently shut down. This in turn necessitated breaching the existing airport levee to let the water out. The new pump design includes a redundant pump in case the primary pump fails during a significant flooding event.


The problem

The Chehalis-Centralia Airport was one of many casualties as a result of the December 2007 flood. The Federal War Department, as it was then called, built the airport and surrounding levees in the early 1940s to create a practice landing strip for WWII Boeing bombers. The 1940s-era pump failed and necessitated a breaching of the airport levee and further added to the catastrophic impact and delayed recovery from the 2007 event.

The project

The purpose of the airport pump project was to replace an aged levee pump station located inside the levee at the northeast corner of the airport with a new modernized and flood-proofed redundant pump station with a backup generator and substantially greater pumping power. The new pump station has two new electric pumps capable of pumping 10,000 to 12,000 gallons per minute, a new generator capable of supplying electricity to the pump station in the event the local electrical grid should fail, and auxiliary backup pump capacity.


The impact

The new pump station protects the airport, commercial facilities, businesses, bike and jogging trail, and associated airport infrastructure, including roads, utilities and the runway. Many people driving on I-5 see the development at the airport and believe it will contribute to future flood damage without realizing that area is behind the levee installed by the federal government in the 1940’s.  Development behind the levee does not contribute to higher flood flows outside the levee. The new pump station is essential to maintaining the operational capability of the airport, especially during times of flooding and other natural disaster emergencies. According to a recent economic impact study conducted by the Washington state Department of Transportation, the Chehalis-Centralia Airport contributes 1,658 jobs, $68,050,000 in labor income and $186,473,000 in business revenue annually to the state and local economy. This translates to $1,267,630 in local tax revenue, $7,839,860 in state tax revenue, and $9,107,490 in total tax revenue. The full report can be found at In January 2022, the basin was hit with a big flood. The replacement airport pump performed flawlessly:

• It pumped water continuously for several days at 10,000 gallons per minute or a total of 518,400,000 gallons of water.

• For the duration of the event, the entire area within the levee was protected from inundation.  That translated to protecting millions of dollars of infrastructure, over 1,000 jobs and ensuring continuity of local and state tax revenue.


Final thoughts: 

“With funds from the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority, the airport has been able to maintain itself as a central community asset in the basin,” Chehalis-Centralia Airport Manager Brandon Rakes said. “The bang-for-the-buck generated by the state’s investment in the airport pump project is incredible.  For the $1.14 million spent by the state, nearly $45 million in assets are protected which in turn generate $9 million in tax revenue annually. This is an incredible investment for state taxpayers.”

By the numbers: Chehalis-Centralia Airport pump station replacement

Cost: $1,146,000

Start: Oct. 1, 2015 

Completion: Jan. 3, 2018 

Time to complete: Two years, three months 

Estimated return on investment: $44,856,400, or 39 to one