Chehalis River Basin | KNKX

Chehalis River Basin

Visitors view a widened passage for salmon to swim up the Middle Fork of the Newaukum River under Middle Fork Road near Chehalis, Wash., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 — an example of restoration work the Quinault say would be undermined by the proposed dam.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

“Extinction is not an option.”

That’s the headline on a statement released Thursday by the Quinault Indian Nation, as the tribe formally announced its opposition to a proposed dam on the upper Chehalis River. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Images

The Chehalis River has flooded 18 times in the past 20 years, sometimes submerging Interstate 5 near Olympia. The local Flood Control Zone District is proposing a new dam to prevent extreme high water. A draft environmental impact statement is now out for public comment.  

Elaine Thompson / AP File Photo

Editor’s note: This story was part of our KNKX Connects broadcast from Lewis County on Aug. 30, 2018. We explored the issues, events and personalities that shaped – and in some cases are still shaping – the cities of Centralia and Chehalis.

The land in west Lewis County is more rolling hillside than steep climb. It’s farmland in a lot of places, forest in others. Centralia and Chehalis sit at the confluence of the Chehalis and Skookumchuck rivers.

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The Okanagan River is pushing past its banks in eastern Washington because of rapid snowmelt in the mountains. It’s been more than 40 years since the area has seen this kind of event with emergency crews filling sandbags rather than preparing for wildfires.

This type of flooding, and the response, isn’t new for the people who live on the west side of the mountains in the Chehalis River Basin, with the most recent catastrophic flood happening about a decade ago.