Our Views: Chehalis-Centralia Airport Pump Project Just One Success Story

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The Chehalis River Basin benefits from the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority-funded airport pump project.

An important component of the Chehalis Basin Strategy of reducing flood damage and enhancing the fishery is the successful funding and completion of local projects through the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority. A frequent complaint in the process is that it involves endless studies when in fact dozens of important flood and fish projects have been completed across the basin on time and on budget. 

This editorial is the beginning of a series that will highlight some of these successful local projects.

The Chehalis-Centralia Airport was one of many casualties as a result of the December 2007 flood. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the levee around the airport in World War II, which required that a pump be placed inside the levee for use when the levee was overtopped.  In the 2007 flood, that WWII-era pump failed, necessitating a breaching of the airport levee and further added to the catastrophic impact and delayed recovery from the 2007 event.

Today, thanks to a local projects grant from the Flood Authority and the Office of Chehalis Basin, the airport, like many other communities across the basin, is much more flood-ready and flood resilient. When the airport is protected, the whole basin benefits.

The levee pump station is located inside the levee at the northeast corner of the airport. The pump station is modernized and flood-proofed with a backup generator and substantially greater pumping power. 

The new pump station has two 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 new pump station protects the airport, commercial facilities, businesses, bike and jogging trail and associated airport infrastructure, including roads, utilities and the runway.  The new pump station is essential to maintaining the operational capability of the airport, especially during times of flood 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 million in labor income, and $186 million in business revenue annually to the state and local economy. This translates to $1.2 million in local tax revenue, $7,839,860 in state tax revenue and $9 million in total tax revenue.

“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,” Airport Manager Brandon Rakes recently said.

He added that “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.”

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This editorial is part of a periodic series on flood hazard reduction success stories throughout the Chehalis River Basin.

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