Watershed Co-op Denied Any State Flood Funding

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    ABERDEEN — The Watershed Cooperative between Grays Harbor, Thurston County and the Chehalis Tribe will have to find its own revenue stream.

    Grays Harbor County Commissioner Terry Willis said the Governor’s Office nixed the group’s request to get a piece of the $1.32 million in state funds geared toward preventing flooding in the Chehalis River Basin.

    The cooperative had hoped to craft an interlocal agreement with the state Office of Financial Management to get some of the funds, but policy adviser Keith Phillips with the Governor’s Office broke the news to Willis last week during a meeting in Olympia.

    Phillips didn’t return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.

    For the past three years, another organization, the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority, has been the lone recipient of more than $5 million in state funds to seek a basinwide solution for flooding on the Chehalis River. The Watershed Cooperative splintered out of that effort, when three government entities unhappy with the direction of the Flood Authority, established the Cooperative. The cooperative had hoped to compete for the new funding allocation.

    The state’s capital budget specifically allocated the funds for “the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority or other local flood districts.” But the Watershed Cooperative is not a flood district and does not qualify for the funds, Willis said.

    “So we have to figure out what our next step is going to be,” Willis said.

    The Watershed Cooperative will conduct its meeting at the end of the month to talk about their options, she said.

    When the Flood Authority met last month, members approved spending of at least $925,000 of the new money on everything from hydraulic modeling and fish studies to regular maintenance of a new early flood warning website, as well as rain and stream gauges. Some final contracts must still be approved to spend the money. However, if all of the money came from the $1.32 million, there would just be $395,000 left.

    Flood Authority Chairman Vickie Raines said she’s also talked to Phillips and will meet with him again later this week to figure out the details of just how the money will be spent.

    “It’s possible that some of the funding from the previous budget year could have rolled over and there are questions on what residuals are left over,” said Raines, who represents Montesano on the Flood Authority, but remains the mayor of Cosmopolis. “Just how much money we have left is what we’re going to figure out between now and at our regular meeting next week.”

    Raines said it also appears possible that there will be funding to provide some kind of staffing for the Flood Authority, although those details must still be worked out.

    Contracts for the consultants who kept meeting notes and provided input to Flood Authority members expired at the end of June.

    “We’re moving in a positive direction now and I sure hope Grays Harbor and Thurston County remain on the train,” Raines said.

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