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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers from Washington State in a joint letter supporting the Chehalis Basin Strategy.

The members have been coordinating with the Chehalis Basin Board in efforts to reduce flood-related damages and restore aquatic species habitat in the Chehalis River Basin. The letter was sent to five federal agencies with current or potential roles in a final, comprehensive Chehalis Basin strategy including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Over the last century, the basin has experienced catastrophic flooding and declining salmon runs with increasing frequency and intensity. The piecemeal approach taken by federal, state, local, and tribal entities to address these problems in the past has proven unsuccessful, and underscore the need for a holistic, collaborative approach,” Senator Murray and her colleagues wrote in the letter. “We are encouraged that for the first time a comprehensive, science-driven process is moving forward and examining thorough plans to address both flooding and habitat restoration simultaneously.”

Senator Murray has long championed land conservation and habitat restoration efforts, including the Wild Sky Wilderness area, Hanford Reach national monument, and Methow Valley Headwaters, and reintroduced the Wild Olympics Wilderness & Wild and Scenic Rivers Act this past year to permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries as Wild and Scenic Rivers. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray also successfully secured millions of dollars in federal funding to support a number of Washington state conservation priorities, including efforts to clean up Puget Sound and bolster salmon populations.

In addition to Senator Murray, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, and U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Denny Heck (WA-10), and Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08). 

The full text of the letter is below and available HERE.

We are writing to express our support for the collaborative process led by Washington State’s Office of Chehalis Basin and the Chehalis Basin Board that aims to reduce flood-related damages and restore aquatic species habitat in the Chehalis River Basin. Over the last century, the basin has experienced catastrophic flooding and declining salmon runs with increasing frequency and intensity. The piecemeal approach taken by federal, state, local, and tribal entities to address these problems in the past has proven unsuccessful, and underscore the need for a holistic, collaborative approach.

We are encouraged that for the first time a comprehensive, science-driven process is moving forward and examining thorough plans to address both flooding and habitat restoration simultaneously. The Washington State Legislature has appropriated more than $220 million toward this effort over the last four budget cycles, including $73 million for the FY 2019 – FY 2021 biennium.

The Chehalis Basin Strategy is led by a board that includes representatives from the governor’s office, the Quinault Indian Nation, and the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation.  The board has successfully funded and implemented over fifty local flood damage reduction projects, more than twenty-five farm pads, and over thirty fish barrier correction projects opening more than ninety miles of river habitat. Although the board is continuing to evaluate a range of alternatives for the long-term Chehalis Basin Strategy, we recognize that the “no action” alternative will result in further declines in aquatic species populations and new Endangered Species Act listings as well as increased flooding that will damage local communities, schools, transportation systems, and jobs.

Representatives from your agency met with members of the board recently to explore possible future federal funding avenues for the habitat work. Thank you for meeting with representatives of the Chehalis Basin process. This process has strong bipartisan support in our state and among the members of our delegation. We strongly encourage your agency to support this important project as the process moves forward. 

Sincerely,

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