Chehalis River Basin

River restoration and flood mitigation

Forterra is collaborating with landowners and partners to support restoration along the Chehalis River and its tributaries, improving habitat for aquatic life and making the region’s livelihoods more sustainable.

Photo by David Yusem

A land of abundance

At close to 2 million acres, the Chehalis River Basin is the second-largest intact watershed in the state, with hundreds of miles of tributaries feeding the main stem of the Chehalis River. The basin stretches from the foothills of Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier to the Pacific coast, on the ancestral lands of The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Quinault Indian Nation. It encompasses the cities of Chehalis and Centralia up through Olympia and out to the coast through the Grays Harbor cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam. The largely rural region is the heart of timber country, with farming and fisheries also fueling the local economy. These livelihoods are written into the land — a 115-mile salmon-filled river, fertile fields flush against its banks, and vast woodlands.

A 500-year flood changes everything

These river communities have long endured persistent, damaging floods. Erosion from clearing land along the river and harvesting trees upland have worsened flooding and diminished habitat for aquatic life. In 2007, a 500-year flood struck, cutting Interstate 5 off for several days.

In 2016 the Chehalis Basin Board was created to oversee a two-pronged remediation plan: habitat restoration and flood mitigation. Soon after, work started on the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan (ASRP), which is recognized for its extensive data and integration of climate change models.

Salmonid populations, including spring Chinook, are in decline. Habitat degradation is accelerating. Forterra, its partners, and the community of people who care about this region want to reverse these trends. Restoration of the river can help mitigate the impacts of flooding and improve habitat for salmon and other species, such as western toad, Oregon spotted frog, and a variety of shellfish.

Chinook Salmon

Forterra joins a state effort

Forterra completed a subcontract with the state to gather tools and recommendations for conservation and restoration, including proposed policy and a map identifying priority areas.

Based on our experience in both conservation and community engagement, Forterra was brought on for a second contract. We are now working with landowners to either sell an easement over their property or sell it outright to facilitate dedicated restoration in pilot areas under the ASRP. There are several benefits to this approach: landowners are compensated for the loss of working land, permitted development, or other land rights; it incentivizes participation; and restoration measures are permanent.

Support river restoration

The ultimate goal of the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan, to be accomplished through collaboration with partners like Forterra over the next 50 years, is to restore 550 miles of riverfront amounting to almost 15,000 acres, the majority of which is now privately owned. We are well on our way to completing our initial pilot project. Moving forward on this ambitious goal of restoring the entire river will require considerable funds. To support work like this, make a donation to Forterra.