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

Commissioners, public chafe with process for dredge deposits

 

October 26, 2017

Diana Zimmerman

A representative of the US Army Corps of Engineers chats with Cape Horn residents last Thursday at the Puget Island Norse Hall as the Corps presented its proposed update to its 20-year dredging plan.

The slow pace of setting up beach nourishment projects continues to trouble Wahkiakum County officials and residents of eroding shorelines.

County officials and engineering consultants from the firm Mott MacDonald LLC continue to confer with the US Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies over the scope of the expected final permit, a Section 408 evaluation of potential impacts of sand placement.

The permitting process has surpassed the county's expectations for time and budget, and county commissioners on Tuesday approved another $4,350 to cover engineering expenses. Commissioners initially budgeted $55,000 for the project. To date, the county has spent $100,561.91, according to a report from Public Works Director Chuck Beyer.

Commissioner Dan Cothren also reported the latest wrinkle, that the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has asked that beach nourishment occur after August in order not to impact the downstream journey of salmon and steelhead smolts.

"We hope we get everything covered by the engineers so we don't have any surprises," Cothren said.

The Corps is updating its 20-year plan for maintenance of the Columbia River shipping channel and last week held the last of several public presentations of the plan at the Norse Hall on Puget Island.

Citizens and commissioners were unhappy that the meeting format didn't allow people to make input at the meetings; instead, citizens said they were advised to send written comments to the agency.

"It was propaganda," said East Sunny Sands resident Olaf Thomason. "Every one of the young people there didn't have answers for what we wanted to know.

"If they're going to send somebody down to tell us about the 20-year plan, send someone with whiskers."

Commission Chair Blair Brady, who had attended a previous presentation in Astoria, agreed.

"It was a dog and pony show," he said.

What bothered him most about the process, he said, was that no one could comment, and so no one could hear other concerns and act on them.

"They set it up to get what they wanted," he said.

Diana Zimmerman

Local residents flocked to the Norse Hall last Thursday to learn about the Corps of Engineers' proposed dredge plan update.

The period for written comments is still open; see the Corps website for details: http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/lcrchannelmaintenance.

Cape Horn resident Trish Shroyer suggested that when people write comment letters, they mention their frustration as well as other issues.

Commissioner Mike Backman said that people should write separate letters about each issue so that comments are not just summarized.

"The letters are more important than you think," Brady said.

Commissioner Dan Cothren commented that he had expected the presentations to be ineffective for county issues.

What matters, he said, is the work of consulting engineers in their talks with Corps officials.

"It doesn't bother me," he said of the frustrating presentations. "We're working with bigger folks, the bigger picture."

 

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