Southwest Washington Congressional Delegation Presses for Funding for Cowlitz River Sediment Management Plan
Lack of funding for sediment monitoring in the Lower Cowlitz River contributes to heightened flood risk for homes, businesses
VANCOUVER – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, and U.S. Senator Patty Murray sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) pressing the agencies for answers after they again failed to fund sediment monitoring for the Lower Cowlitz River in the 2020 Corps work plan.
Sediment monitoring of the Lower Cowlitz River provides vital information on the viability of the sediment retention structure’s ability to protect Cowlitz County communities from devastating floods. In their letter to OMB and the Corps, Cantwell, Herrera Beutler, and Murray requested a detailed explanation behind the decision not fund this important activity.
Despite the vocal advocacy for this funding by the congressional delegation, OMB and the Corps failed to put it in place, which has shifted the financial burden to local stakeholders
“Failing to address the risk to impacted communities not only threatens them with the uncertainty of flooding but fails to give them the peace of mind that the monitoring can provide. We request a detailed explanation behind the decision to not fund sediment monitoring and ask that you work with our offices to identify options to fund this important work as soon as possible,” Cantwell, Herrera Beutler, and Murray said.
The full text of the letter follows and is available here.
Dear Acting Director Vought and Lieutenant General Semonite,
We write to express our deep disappointment that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) did not include funding for sediment monitoring for the Lower Cowlitz River in Cowlitz County, Washington state in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 work plan.
As you are aware, funding was authorized by Congress in the Mount St. Helens Construction Account for Mount St. Helens Sediment Control in 1985. Proper river management requires yearly monitoring to ensure that river levels do not reach dangerous levels. Unfortunately, funding for sediment monitoring has been inconsistent, creating uncertainty for local communities most at risk from the impacts of flooding.
The Long-Term Sediment Management Plan was developed following the eruption of Mount St. Helens. Congress authorized USACE to construct, operate and maintain a sediment retention structure and provide the associated downstream actions necessary to ensure flood risk reduction for the communities of Longview, Kelso, Castle Rock, and Lexington. As sediment flows into the lower river, it reduces the flood-carrying capacity and puts these communities at unacceptable risk during winter storms.
The local county government, along with several partners, were forced to commit $110,000 last year to partially complete some of this work after the federal government failed to provide the funding. The results of their study found that flood protection levels decreased below federally authorized levels in the city of Lexington. Local communities should not be forced to divert funds from other local priorities to make up for the lack of consistent monitoring in what was a commitment by the federal government.
Failing to address the risk to impacted communities not only threatens them with the uncertainty of flooding but fails to give them the peace of mind that the monitoring can provide. We request a detailed explanation behind the decision to not fund sediment monitoring and ask that you work with our offices to identify options to fund this important work as soon as possible.
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