Commissioners unhappy with WDFW program, directors
Wahkiakum County commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) activities and discussed options for upgrading the county's Health and Human Service headquarters on Tuesday.
Commercial fisherman Kent Martin presented a draft letter to a state Senate committee conducting ratification hearings and recommended the county go on record as opposing the appointment of Naselle resident Miranda Wecker to the Washington State Fish and Wildlife Commission. Commissioners agreed to write a letter to the Senate Natural Resources Committee and, if possible, make public comment at the confirmation hearing.
Wecker has served on the commission for several years and is its chair.
Martin said recreational and commercial fishers on the lower river and along the coast are opposing Wecker's appointment.
"It's very clear, as you people well know, that she has failed to represent us," he said.
County commissioners agreed.
"She has never represented the lower river on the commission," Commissioner Dan Cothren said. "We need somebody else to be up there."
Cothren and Dr. Boone Mora, a Skamokawa resident, expressed displeasure with the conduct last week of an advisory committee to the WDFW about the elk hoof rot syndrome. Cothren is a member of the committee, and Mora attempted to suggest an explanation at the meeting but was restricted in time allowed for remarks.
Mora, a retired public health department administrator, said he is confident that he has identified the source of the syndrome in which hooves of elk grow, become painful and finally form lesions which become infected and cripple the animal. That cause, he said, is leptospirosis, a widely varied disease of all mammals. In the United States, he said, it is rarely diagnosed in either animal or man.
Two classic symptoms of the disease have been met, Mora said, and the third could be identified in urine samples from live animals.
Mora said he had to abbreviate his remarks and hope that committee members would read the written material he provided. And while he was limited to three minutes, the committee spent much longer than that commenting on why he couldn't be afforded more time to speak.
A WDFW biologist said the department had already ruled out leptospirosis.
Mora, however, countered that the department had examined only four the 200 separate kinds of leptospires. And, Mora added, the biologist had mentioned the DNA from the bacteria had been found in the kidneys of an elk. And this confirms that the bacteria are in the elk.
Cothren agreed with Mora's comments and said he has become very frustrated and angry with the course the committee has taken.
Members of the committee wanted to ask questions of Mora, but the committee chair wouldn't allow that.
"(The committee chair) had the opportunity to let him speak and she did not," Cothren said. "She put up road blocks. You want to partner with fish and wildlife, but you can't. They block you out.
"It's the same old stuff, and it has to stop," he said.
However, Cothren added, he is happy that the WDFW is considering a sharp reduction in the number of elk that are hunted in the areas where the hoof rot has been observed, a reduction that he has strongly supported to avoid over-harvesting herds struggling with the illness.
Commissioners and Health and Human Services Department administrators discussed steps for remodeling department quarters and consolidating offices.
The department has two offices; the health department is located in the Courthouse Annex and Mental Health and other social services are located on the Elochoman Valley campus.
A consultant last year recommended the department consolidate on one campus, and Administrator Sue Cameron and her staff have begun considering options.
Cameron said Tuesday there are two main goals--providing better service to clients and operating more efficiently.
Department administrators said a likely scenario is to consolidate at the Elochoman campus and remodel buildings there to house department services.
The project could cost $350,000 or more, financial officer Chris Weiler said, but department staff are confident they can find program partners who would support the work and lower the county's costs.
Weiler and social service program director Chris Holmes said the campus's four buildings could be remodeled to house all programs. The work would have to be phased in so that there would always be space for the programs.
Commissioners agreed the group should continue to develop the plans. They were concerned about costs and recommended phasing in the work to avoid depleting county funds.
Cameron said she would prepare a budget and outline a phased program for future discussion.