The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

By Rick Nelson
Wah. Co. Eagle 

Groups to plan for eroding dike


January 24, 2013

Local and federal agencies will meet Friday afternoon in Cathlamet in an effort to agree on a plan to address the eroding Steamboat Slough Dike.

Neither the local nor the federal agencies have fuuds to address the erosion along the shoreline, a project estimated to cost over $3 million. The shoreline is threatening to slide into the river and flood the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer.

The US Army Corps of Engineers has said it could use federal funds dedicated to salmon habitat restoration to build a new, narrow dike setback from the shoreline and breach the old dike to flood 200 acres of the refuge, which is owned and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Officials from Diking District 4, which owns the dike, and Wahkiakum County, which owns the road on the dike, have rejected the plan. At a meeting earlier in January, they asked the two federal agencies to provide a dike that is wide enough for construction of a road on top. They have also asked the federal agencies to guarantee public access to the dike road, at least in times of emergencies.

Corps officials have said the salmon funding doesn't cover road construction, and they have said it's difficult and time consuming to provide the guarantees which the county has requested.

The groups will meet 1 p.m. Friday in the county commissioners' meeting room in the courthouse to see if they can come to an agreement.

On Tuesday, citizens urged the county commissioners to take a firm stand.

Skamokawa resident Mike Linn commented that Corps maintenance of the Columbia River shipping channel has caused much of the erosion. The Corps should have a plan in place to collect funds for mitigating erosion caused by channel maintenance, he said.

"To make plans such as these would appear to me to be a requirement of any credible cost benefit analysis," he said.

Commission Chair Blair Brady said he had received lots of comments from constituents in the past week about the eroding dike.

"The vast majority support our comments for road access," he said. "We need to have access around that refuge in the event of flooding. It has happened in the past, and it will happen again."

The top of the dike should be at least 14 feet wide, commissioners said, to support an adequate road width.


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