Several state agencies would work jointly to assess and recommend strategies to reduce the threat of flooding along the Satsop River, under legislation recommended Tuesday by the Senate Water, Agriculture, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.
“The Satsop had a long history of dredging but, since the dredging stopped, the buildup of sediment has clogged the river’s main channel,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), the committee chair. “As a result, flooding has become an increasing threat to area homes, farms and businesses.”
House Bill 1579, as amended in committee, calls for the development of flood plain management strategies to better protect agricultural lands, restore and enhance fish runs, and protect public infrastructure such as roads and bridges from flooding.
“Every year, people along the Satsop face the risk of severe flooding,” said Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview). “This could lead to a way to restore their security and stability.”
Terry Willis, whose 100-year-old family farm sits at the mouth of the Satsop River, said the flooding is destroying farmland and threatening area homes.
“We’re getting more of what looks like a flash flood,” she said. “We’re seeing massive erosion, which is exasperated by how quickly the flood waters are getting to us and how huge the gravel bars have gotten. The buildup of gravel in the river system is forcing the river out of its banks and into people’s homes and fields and businesses.”
HB 1579 directs the state departments of Ecology, Agriculture, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources to work with the Washington Conservation Commission to propose pilot projects in Grays Harbor, Whatcom and Snohomish counties. The agencies would be expected to provide recommendations for timetables and funding to the Legislature by December of 2020.
“If done correctly,” said Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), “this project could enhance salmon habitat, reduce flood damage, and protect public infrastructure.”