Local officials learned last week that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has proposed purchasing up to 205.8 acres north of Skamokawa through a US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Coastal Wetland Conservation grant, with a match from the Wahkiakum Conservation District.
The primary concept, the proposal says, is to redirect surface water flows from the current channel of Skamokawa Creek back into Dead Slough, the historic channel. This will create tidally influenced wetlands and seasonal flooding for 380-680 acres of floodplain and restore a naturally functioning wetland ecosystem that would benefit several species of salmonids.
Cothren reported that he had discussed the concerns in a telephone conversation Monday with Guy Norman, regional director for WDFW.
"He said, 'We'll take it off the table,'" Cothren reported at the Tuesday meeting of the board of commissioners.
"We had a frank conversation," Cothren added. "I told him we're becoming a park for raising fish for other folks without getting any benefit what-so-ever. And when we get blindsided and have the public show us things that we haven't heard about, we get angry."
Cothren said Norman agreed to meet with the board to discuss the proposal.
Commission Chair Blair Brady has prepared letters to the District 19 legislative delegation, asking them to look into the matter.
Brady called the proposal documents misleading.
"If WDFW is allowed to proceed with what they are suggesting, it will put our fairgrounds and surrounding properties at risk of severe flooding," he wrote. "An example is our fairgrounds' drainage system has only a one-foot drop, and if they raise the surrounding water level 11 inches, we will have serious problems."
He also commented that governmental and non-governmental agencies have been buying land in the county, which takes the lands out of agricultural production and ends jobs.
Brady said he'd like to see if the county could pass an ordinance prohibiting the breaching of dikes and to create a moratorium on land purchases by governmental and non-governmental agencies.
He commented that a Columbia Land Trust project on the Kandoll Farm on Kandoll Road increased currents in Seal Slough, and the stronger currents have been eroding the private dike protecting his and his neighbor's property.
The Land Trust is trying to correct the problem, he said, but the dike continues to erode.