About the Fund Grays Harbor/Chehalis River Watershed Fund

The Chehalis River Basin Watershed drains 2,600 square miles into the Grays Harbor Estuary and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean. The second largest watershed in Washington State, it is home to historical tribal fishing grounds, old growth forests, unique and valuable estuarine and forest wetlands, salt marshes, coastal dunes, and countless birds and other wildlife. Millions of migratory shorebirds visit the area every year.

Over the years, the watershed’s rich resources have been unsustainably extracted and ultimately impaired. Wetlands have been filled, forests leveled, and industrial wastes have entered or been dumped into the waters. The Grays Harbor/Chehalis River Watershed Fund supports community-based organizations dedicated to protecting and restoring the watershed, and honoring the historical uses of the watershed while preserving fish and wildlife so that the Chehalis River Basin will be healthy and productive in perpetuity.

The Grays Harbor/Chehalis River Watershed Fund was created by the Washington-based Waste Action Project and is funded through settlements of legal actions as part of Waste Action Project’s Clean Water Act enforcement program. The Waste Action Project’s goal in enforcing federal water quality law is to achieve negotiated settlements that bring polluters into compliance with the law and the permitting system – thus leading to cleaner and healthier water bodies and fisheries. As part of the settlements, in addition to solving the pollution problem, there is often a provision to donate mitigation funds to local environmental groups to help them repair past watershed damage. Waste Action Project receives no money from these mitigation funds; however, the lawyers on the cases receive repayment of attorneys’ fees and expenses, which are paid separately from the mitigation fund.

Due to the complexities of managing environmental mitigation funds, Waste Action Project asked Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment to set up and administer a grant program to award the funds back to the community as grants to protect and improve the Grays Harbor estuary and the Chehalis River watershed.

Rose Foundation is a grant making public charity that specializes in handling restitution payments and class-action settlement awards. Over the past 15 years, Rose has administered approximately 300 settlement mitigation funds, enabling more than $18 million in community grants in Washington, California, Oregon and other states.


Tim Bell, PNW Program Officer

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