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Spirit Lake/Toutle-Cowlitz River System

Situation Assessment, 2018 - 2019

Changes to the Spirit Lake/Toutle-Cowlitz River System from the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens put the region at ongoing risk of moderate and potentially catastrophic flooding, due to the buildup of sediment. Engineering measures from the 1980s to reduce flooding risks now need costly repairs or modifications, presenting an opportunity to re-evaluate risk management strategies.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) asked the Center in 2018 to conduct a situation assessment for long-term risk management, given the different economic, cultural, and social priorities of regional stakeholders and the respective roles of federal, tribal, state, and local authorities and other groups in the region.

The Situation Assessment for the Long-Term Management of Spirit Lake/Toutle-Cowlitz River System report summarizes an interview-based assessment process. The assessment explored prospects for a collaborative system-level entity to identify resources and additional information needed to inform long-term management decisions. The assessment found conditions favorable to a collaborative process.

For more information, contact project lead:

Chris Page


Spirit Lake/Toutle-Cowlitz Rivers Collaborative, April 2021 – Present

Representatives of the U.S. congressional delegation, Cowlitz Tribe, and state and federal agencies expressed support for a collaborative approach to long-term sediment management and related issues. The watershed-wide consortium is intended to benefit current and long-term planning efforts to address sediment and land management, public safety, and other important issues.

As initially envisioned, the goals for meetings in 2021-2022 include:

  • Identify parties’ interest in, and willingness to commit to, a long-term collaborative.
  • Identify common interests and desired outcomes for:
    • Important issues, challenges, and opportunities for involved parties.
    • Discussions related to ongoing efforts, information needs, and potential partnerships.

And, if support emerges for key parties to commit to a system-level, long-term collaborative:

  • Define purposes and goals.
  • Develop timelines and benchmarks.
  • Identify necessary short-term funding and staffing.
  • Draft basic operating structures, preliminary commitments from involved parties, and funding options.

Meeting Materials & Schedule

See below for past meeting materials and upcoming meeting dates through the end of the calendar year. All meetings will be held online until January of 2022, when they will likely be held  in-person in Kelso, WA.

If you are interested in the work of the Collaborative and would like to observe a meeting, please contact the project coordinator, Kara Whitman at

April 28, 2021

Meeting Materials:

June 2, 2021

Meeting Materials:

July 8, 2021

Meeting Materials: 

September 9, 2021

Meeting Materials

Examples of Declaration’s of Cooperation for Reference

*Please contact Kara Whitman ( for WebEx information if you wish to attend the meeting.


October 14, 2021

Meeting materials

WebEx information sent out to participants on October 7th, 2021*.

*If you wish to attend this meeting, but do not have the WebEx attendance information please contact Kara Whitman ( for details.

November 11, 2021

Materials forthcoming.

December 9, 2021

Materials forthcoming.