Present were Ducks Unlimited, Columbia Land Trust and their engineering consultants, two commissioners from the Grays River Habitat Enhancement District, and county officials. Not present were the private property owners from the area.
The land trust purchased the Kandoll Farm and other land in the area several years ago with the intention of restoring salmon habitat.
Executive Director Glenn Lamb said the non-profit group met with people in the community and learned that flooding was a major concern. Working with Ducks Unlimited, who provided engineering for the restoration work, the land trust began a two-phase project. In 2004, Lamb said, they breached the old Kandoll Road on its downstream end and used the material to raise the road on the upper end. They also breached a dike along the downstream end of the farm to allow the Grays River to come onto the farm land and create wetland.
In 2005, they removed two 42-inch tidegates on a slough along the northern, upstream property line of the farm and replaced them with two 13-foot culverts so that the slough and other channels on the farm could drain directly into Seal Slough.
The area experienced extremely high flooding during the winters of those years. Area resident Raven Webb, who has been an vocal critic of the projects, said the floods reached levels never before experienced and have severely damaged her house.
In 2006, Ducks Unlimted hired Batelle National Laboratory to study the river and connecting channels and develop a computerized model that could explain what was going on. They also raised Kandoll Road, hoping it would keep Grays River flood waters out of the area.
Opening up the slough with culverts in place of tidegates increased the tidal exchange as desired, said Ducks Unlimited engineer John Axford. "But there was more water than expected, it's flooded pastures of the neighbors," he said.
The road was raised to keep tidal flooding at bay on the north side of the road, but it doesn't stop Grays River floods, Axford said. "There is some retention of flood water (from the Grays) but less tidal flooding," he said.
There is also a "bathtub" effect that slows flood water from draining, said Commissioner Dan Cothren and Ian Sinks of the land trust.
The 13-foot culverts have increased the currents in Seal Slough and are causing erosion to downstream property owners, said Poul Toftemark, one of those property owners and enhancement district commissioner.
Toftemark said his dock traditionally settled on the bottom of the slough at low tide, but since the culverts were installed, there is now four feet of clearance, and the dike along his property and that of a neighbor is sloughing away.
There was considerable discussion of other aspects of the flooding and suggestions that more data and surveying may be necessary.
Axford said the Batelle study was very comprehensive and should provide sufficient data to explain the way the water works.
Both Cothren and Axford commented that some of the recent floods have been higher than most people have seen in their lifetimes in the valley.
"I've never seen so much water as we've seen in the last few years," Cothren said. "The watersheds in the hills have been logged; there are no big trees to hold back the runoff. We can be in the same situation for years."
Commissioners Cothren, Blair Brady and Lisa Marsyla agreed they want a solution to the situation so the county doesn't have to spend money on road repair every year and property is protected.
They agreed to work with Ducks Unlimited to repair the road with disaster relief funds, but the said a better solution is needed.
Marsyla, who had asked for the meeting, asked the parties to commit to work for a solution.
"We have to leave past issues behind," she said. "If you're going to come with a chip on your shoulder, don't come. We're moving forward. We need to find a solution. That's the only way I'll be involved in this."
Those present agreed they would meet again in July to go over the Batelle study and start working on a long-term solution.