Office of Chehalis Basin Names 9 Members of Committee to Look at Non-Dam Alternatives

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The six people who will join Chehalis Basin Board members Glen Connelly, Tyson Johnston and Steve Malloch in exploring non-dam alternatives to mitigating catastrophic floods were named last week at a regular meeting of the board.

Norm Chapman, Todd Chaput, Jessica Hesley, Dan Maughan, Brandon Parsons and Brian Stewart will join the three Chehalis Basin Board members to look at the alternatives as part of a new committee called the Local Action Non-Dam (LAND) Steering Group.

The group will now focus on hiring a third-party consultant to assist in the process. A contract is likely to be signed in December.

Between now and June 2022, the committee will develop alternative solutions to a dam. From June to October of next year, it will evaluate those options. A comprehensive basinwide flood damage reduction roadmap will also be developed after the LAND alternative is identified.

These members represent more than a century of living in the Chehalis Basin and all hold vested interests in the safety of the basin, said Andrea Doyle, director of the Office of Chehalis Basin.

“I endorse and support the appointment of these wonderful folks that are willing to commit their time to this effort. I think a lot of work has been done to make sure there’s a very diverse representation to comprise it, and I’m very excited to get to work during our kickoff next week,” Johnston said at the meeting.

The group held its first kickoff meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

Norm Chapman, who chairs the Centralia Planning Commission, was nominated to the LAND steering group by City of Centralia staff. City Manager Rob Hill announced him as a member at an Oct. 12 city council meeting.

Ron Averill, who represents the city on the Chehalis River Basin Flood Control Zone District, said at the meeting that the committee was “made up of all environmentalists,” which he said needed to be rectified.

Chapman is the current CEO of United Concept Trainers and he’s also served on the Centralia School District budget advisory committee, according to a biography provided by the Office of Chehalis Basin.

He’s previously worked at South Puget Sound Community College for 31 years as both an automotive technology professor and as dean of applied technology.

Jessica Helsley, the Washington program director at the Wild Salmon Center, is a former Hoquiam resident who “personally experienced the effects of flooding” on the lower basin, according to her biography. She’s also served as the executive director of the Coast Salmon Foundation.

In 2017, she was also named by Gov. Jay Inslee to serve on the Coastal Marine Advisory Council.

Dan Maughan, owner of Adna-based Maughan Family Farm, has been involved with flood mitigation projects for many years in the community and has worked with the Flood Control Zone District since its inception.

Maughan’s family has lived in Lewis County for nearly a century, according to his biography.

He told The Chronicle on Thursday that he decided to get involved with LAND “to help the local citizenry. I just want to help out the people who are vulnerable to flooding.”

He said he believes it’s important to look at the alternatives.

In looking for non-dam alternatives, the LAND steering committee doesn’t plan on focusing on protecting vital thoroughfares, such as Interstate 5. That’s an important variable, Maughan said, that needs to be reexamined.

“I found that out yesterday and was a little bit dismayed,” he said. “I hope we can take it in a meaningful direction. That’s why I’m on the committee.”

The LAND committee will recommend non-dam alternatives that protect structures from catastrophic flooding, protect critical facilities and farmland, and advance environmental justice.

Brandon Parsons, the associate director for American Rivers of Puget Sound and Columbia Basin, was also named to the steering committee. According to his biography, Parsons leads American Rivers’s floodplain restoration efforts and assists with dam removals throughout the Pacific Northwest.

He’s also served in other flood recovery efforts and master planning for communities throughout Colorado, and was also an executive board member of the American Society of Landscape Architects Colorado chapter and Denver Trout Limited. He works in Seattle.

Brian Stewart is a coordinator with Conservation Northwest’s Cascades to Olympics program, which aims to “restore habitat and improve wildlife connectivity between the Cascade Range and Olympic Peninsula,” according to his biography.

He’s also an active facilitator on the Chehalis River Alliance and sits on the Newaukum subcommittee. He resides in Onalaska.

“Having lived in Lewis County for well over a decade, Brian has seen and felt the impacts of the increasing flood events in the Chehalis Basin and knows how important a sustainable and equitable solution is,” his biography reads.

Stewart is currently working on riparian restoration along the Satsop River and improving habitat connectivity under U.S. Highway 12, and is hoping to duplicate these efforts under I-5 at the Newaukum River in the coming years.

Todd Chaput is the current infrastructure initiatives program manager at Economic Alliance of Lewis County, formerly the EDC, and has been involved with the United Way of Lewis County among other organizations.

The Office of Chehalis Basin and other local groups have been examining the possibility of a dam on the Chehalis River near Pe Ell. The proposed structure would only hold back water in times when flooding appears imminent. The river would otherwise flow freely.

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