The council voted 5-0 to file a friend of the court brief in the Department of Ecology's suit with Wahkiakum County over regulation of the application of biosolids.
Biosolids are the product created from treating human sewage. Two years ago, the county passed an ordinance banning the application of all but Class A biosolids, and the state sued, saying it has the authority to regulate the application. A Cowlitz County Superior Court judge ruled for the county, and the DOE has appealed.
The town's new waste water treatment plant was designed to produce Class B biosolids, which are not as processed as Class A biosolids. Council members said they had planned to apply them to the town's timberlands on Bradley Mountain, but under the county ordinance, the town will have to contract with a hauler who will dispose of them elsewhere at a higher cost.
Duane Leaf of the NW Biosolids Association proposed that the town join the suit as a friend of the court to tell its story.
"This state has the best biosolids management in the nation," he said. "If Wahkiakum County succeeds, it will be a real pain."
Both Class A and Class B biosolids are processed and inspected to prevent contamination with heavy metals and pathogens, he said.
Puget Island farmer Fred Stanley commented that he applies Class A biosolids to his farmland with little or no impact to neighbors.
Councilmembers expressed concern that their sewer rates are high and indicated they would welcome anything to control them.
"Our sewer rates are high," said Councilmember Wally Wright. "This is an extra expense."
New Councilmember Bill Talbott moved to file the friend of the court brief, and Hannah Booth-Watts seconded the motion.
County Commission Mike Backman was visiting the meeting and commented that the council was acting without having much information, such as the cost of upgrading the plant to produce Class A biosolids or what the actual cost of hauling and its possible savings might be.
Councilmember David Goodroe recalled that town officials had asked commissioners to consider the town's plans, and they "turned a deaf ear on us."
After more discussion, the council voted 5-0 to have the town attorney file the friend of the court brief.
At last month's meeting, a group of gillnetters voiced objections to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) plan to rear juvenile salmon in net pens moored to the Cathlamet town dock and to turn the Cathlamet Channel into a select area fishery site for gillnetters. The gillnetters expressed doubt that the project would succeed, and they opposed the idea that other fishermen would be fishing in their territory, or drift. Since the 1800's, gillnetters have formed associations called drifts to maintain the river bottom, and outside boats don't have the right to fish on someone else's drift.
Gillnetters speaking Monday said so much change is coming to the commercial fishing industry that the WDFW may be one of the only ways to maintain some opportunity for gillnetters in the future.
Washington and Oregon have adopted a plan proposed by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber that would, among other points, move gillnets off the main channel into side channel select areas and give priority for harvest to recreational fishers.
However, gillnetter Kent Martin said, the plan does mandate that commercial fisheries be maintained, so WDFW is looking for new opportunities.
He added that the Cathlamet Channel has shown it would be good for a select area. Test fishing this past year showed that there were very few endangered spring chinook stock fish in the channel, said Larry Holland, but as one moved above the Puget Island Bridge, one started to find more of the endangered fish.
Martin added that implementing the Kitzhaber Plan will effectively end all gillnet drifts on the river, include the three that he has purchased over the years.
If there is little or no commercial harvest, Martin added, hatchery operators will have no reason to keep producing fish, and anglers and commercial fishers up the coast to Canada and Alaska will divide what stocks remain.
The town had three responses in its second call for bids to supply Propane. Suburban Propane was the lowest at 18.5 cents over wholesale cost, and the council voted to accept that bid. Active Enterprises was second low at 25 cents, and APP Propane, the current supplier, bid 30 cents.