Commissioners lobbying state, federal agencies
Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to lobby state and federal officials for action on three local issues.
The board agreed to a request from Skamokawa resident Mike Linn to pressure the US Army Corps of Engineers for more public fishing access along Steamboat Slough Road.
A contractor is working on a new, setback dike in the area popular with anglers, and the Corps has asked that the road be closed to the public in that area to keep the public out of the way of the contractor and for security of the contractor's property. Recently, the Corps and contractor agreed to open the road on weekends through June for angler access. The contractor plans an aggressive work schedule in July and wants the area completely closed to the public then.
However, Linn said anglers observed a security patrol on the work site when they went to the area last weekend.
If there are security patrolmen on the scene, Linn said, the road could be opened to the public in the evenings.
"I think it needs to be more than a flat, blanket closure," Linn said.
"That was our desire," responded Commissioner Blair Brady. "If they do have security out there, I don't see why we can't insist they open it more."
Commissioners asked Public Works Director Pete Ringen what he knew about the situation.
"I'm frustrated," Ringen said. "It's not my project. I'm caught in the middle. I can't do a good job being in the middle of things that I know nothing about."
Brady agreed, and the commissioners said they would invite the project manager from the Corps of Engineers to a meeting to discuss the matter.
Commissioners also said they would invite the Corps, members of the upriver ports association and representatives of federal representatives to a meeting with Puget Island land owners to discuss permitting of the disposal of dredged sand on Sunny Sands and other eroding beaches.
The county sponsored the permitting process the last time dredges placed sand on the beaches, but those permits have expired, Ringen said, and it will cost about $30,000 to go through the process again.
In the past, the county has covered permitting costs as a means of protecting county roads and supporting property that is some of the most lucrative in the county's tax base.
Island land owners also formed the Puget Island Erosion Control District to work on beach nourishment and erosion issues. That group might pay part of the cost, Ringen said, and it is possible the Corps of Engineers might do it, although the Corps declined during the previous project.
Commissioners felt they might have some negotiating power with the Corps, for the agency wants to dump sand on land it has leased inside the Island dikes, and the county will have to permit the road crossing. Perhaps some of that sand could go down the beach.
"They want to cross the road," said commission Chair Dan Cothren. "They can't have one without the other."
Brady commented that the county should make sure the dredgers would have access to the entire Sunny Sands beach through access permits. During the last project, one land owner denied right of entry permission, so the project only covered half the beach.
"There are avenues available to have full participation so they can use the whole beach," Brady said. "Do we need to facilitate a meeting?"
"Yes," Ringen said.
Finally, commissioners agreed to send a letter to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to invite members to a meeting to discuss hunting seasons.
Cothren said hunters and disease are reducing local deer and elk herds, and hunting pressure should be reduced.
"Wahkiakum County would like to see an emphasis put on shortened seasons for elk along with less cow and doe tags," the letter says. "Our county is concerned with the length of time Wahkiakum units 506 and 530 are open to black powder, rifle and bow and arrow season.
"Wahkiakum County would like to invite Washington State Fish and Game, Wahkiakum County officials and local farmers to a workshop to address special seasons that are set to take place in fall, 2014, and for future hunting."