Chehalis River Flood Authority Approves Funding Shift

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The balance between sticking to process and getting the job done teetered during a Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority conference call meeting on Thursday.

The Flood Authority previously had approved shifting money from flood protection projects in Cosmopolis and unincorporated Grays Harbor County to a Montesano project that will protect the city’s lumber mill and wastewater treatment plant.

Though money previously was budgeted for the Montesano project, the actual costs exceeded the projected costs by about $4 million.

Montesano’s project — which would protect about 100 mill jobs — is designed, permitted and ready to start construction. The other three projects are still in preliminary phases; each will require additional permitting and engineering before construction can begin, according to the Flood Authority.

Even with the transfer of funds to the Montesano project there still is funding for engineering, design and permits to proceed as planned for the three other projects, according to a news release from the Flood Authority.

During Thursday’s meeting, Aberdeen representative Jim Cook said he took issue with what he saw as hasty decision making that lacked transparency.

“We seem to be lumping together a lot of apples and oranges here,” he said. “It seems we are making a lot of sweeping decisions without any input from the project committees whatsoever.”

Flood Authority chairwoman Vickie Raines, however, disagreed.

“The project committee met and brought the projects to the Flood Authority last October,” Raines said. “On Nov. 1,  we met again, and the Flood Authority had broad consensus over all these projects. Nothing has changed. The only reason to meet would be if something was added or deleted.”

“The (slate of projects) went to the Governors’ Group and were subsequently presented to Gov. Gregoire at that time for inclusion in her budget,” she went on. “Now as we move forward, those projects are taken by each respective jurisdiction to move and get the job completed. We’re kind of oversight advisory to those projects.”

Pe Ell representative J. Vander Stoep said the shifting of funds is a logical choice.

“We are three months from flood season. If the dollars stay where they are in the pot, nothing would happen on ground because the other projects aren’t ready.”

On the other hand, he said, if the money goes to the Mary’s River at Montesano project there is potential to protect the region and its resources from catastrophic flooding this November or December.

Chehalis representative Arnold Haberstroh emphasized the need to not only provide flood protection but also to prove to the Legislature that the state’s money was being spent wisely and effectively.

“I think its very important for us now that we’ve got this money to actually do something to make the biggest impacts as quick as possible, to show that we aren’t just another one of these groups that’s going to meet and kick the can down the road,” he said. “If I gave somebody money and they sat on it and didn’t appropriate it, I’d really be reluctant to give them any more.”

The Flood Authority unanimously approved bringing forth the recommendation — to shift the funds — to the Office of Financial Management.

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