Our Views: Inslee Deserves Credit for Focus on Flooding, Fish in the Chehalis Basin


This editorial board does not praise Gov. Jay Inslee every day. 

We often disagree with his politics and his policies, including his positions on new taxes and government regulation. 

But fair is fair, and it's only right to point out that Gov. Inslee has provided consistent and important support for the Chehalis Basin process. 

For almost a century, we have seen fighting over flooding and fish issues. 

The people focused on reducing flood damage argued with the people who focused on fish enhancement. Both problems got worse while the fighting continued. 

Fighting hasn’t worked here. 

Former Gov. Chris Gregoire saw the devastation caused by the periodic giant floods that hit the basin, including the 2007 flood. She saw low income families lose all of their belongings, schools flooded and businesses closed forever — so she acted.

In 2012, she brought together the fish and flood interests at the same table for the first time.  Inslee has kept the focus on collaborative problem solving. He saw early on that there won’t be a basinwide flood plan if there isn’t also a basinwide fish plan and vice versa.

Inslee has worked to keep the parties at the table, including the Chehalis Tribe and Quinault Nation as well as representatives from Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. 

He understands that this process is either going to result in an historic agreement that will save a fishery in decline and protect thousands of families and many communities from the worst of catastrophic flooding or it will fall apart. 

And if this process falls apart, the best science says that the future is bleak for aquatic species in the basin. If the process falls apart, based on economic analysis informed by state data, the Lewis Economic Development Council forecasts $10 billion in flood damage in the next century.

We applaud the continued focus of Inslee on this historic effort. 

We also applaud legislators from both parties in Olympia and in Congress for their continued support.

Our representative in Congress Jaime Herrera Beutler and Sixth District Congressman Derek Kilmer have both been strong supporters of the Chehalis Basin process, as have our two U.S. senators. 

In Olympia, former Rep. Richard DeBolt focused enormous energy in support of flood protection as well as fishery enhancement in this process. Other bipartisan team leaders include Rep. Steve Tharinger, and already in his short time Rep. Peter Abbarno as well as state Sens. John Braun,  Kevin Van De Wege and Jeff Wilson.   

Many other members of the Legislature have also made important contributions.

The Office of Chehalis Basin and its board face another set of key decision points in the coming months, and many decisions are also in the hands of state agencies. 

We thank Gov. Inslee for his focus on the two key issues in our basin, both being addressed through the Chehalis Basin process, and we encourage his continued effort.