CHEHALIS: A WATERSHED MOMENT

The future of Washington state’s most diverse river hangs by a thread. Faced with worsening floods and a prized salmon population on the brink of extinction, a changing climate can no longer be ignored. On Dec. 3. 2007 the Chehalis river valley experienced a catastrophic flood like never before, marking the 4th major flood in 30 years and the resurgence of long-standing interest in building a flood retention dam. As the region prepares to pursue possible solutions with a combination of infrastructure and restorative design, this wild salmon stronghold faces rising water temperatures and a 100-year legacy of habitat degradation. The dam efforts have also caused diverse stakeholders, including the Confederated Tribes of Chehalis, Quinault Indian Nation, and Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to undertake a massive scientific investigation in order to learn more about this little known basin and its fragile habitat. If no action is taken, the prized spring Chinook population will stay on a trajectory toward extinction in the coming years.
Climate change is on the doorstep of this rural American Watershed, with models also predicting a 20% increase in storm intensity and rising water temperatures over the next 60 years. Can diverse communities and cultures across the basin find common ground to solve the crises of increasing floods, droughts and the plight of an iconic species?

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