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

Islanders debate dredge spoils options


April 20, 2017


There doesn't seem to be a lot of trust going around when it comes to proposals to deposit dredge spoils on eroding Wahkiakum County shorelines.

Nearly 50 residents of the county's four flood control zone districts (FCZD), most from Puget Island, gathered Tuesday for a town hall meeting hosted by county commissioners Dan Cothren and Mike Backman (Commissioner Blair Brady was on the road to another meeting).

Commissioners had called the meeting to review dredge deposit proposals and answer questions from FCZD residents.

Commissioners are applying for permits to create a 10-year beach nourishment program with a goal of having dredged sand placed on badly eroding beaches at Cape Horn and Puget Island's Sunny Sands.

Meanwhile, the coalition of upriver ports is applying for its own 20-year comprehensive program for permits for disposal sites between Portland and Astoria.

Also, the coalition is applying for a Wahkiakum County shoreline management substantial development permit to set up an access to an inland disposal site on East Sunny Sands.

East Sunny Sands residents say they're losing shoreline at a rapid pace and would like sand as soon as possible.

They and county commissioners say they want to see sand on the beach outside the dike before it goes inside the dike to the inland disposal site planned for the Philip Vik farm.

"If they (the ports coalition) get their inland disposal, we'll never get sand outside the dike," said Sunny Sands resident Mariane Brightbill. "We don't trust the ports."

The county planning commission has sent the coalition's shoreline permit application to the board of commissioners, but commissioners haven't put the permit on their agenda for consideration.

Coalition representatives Mark Wilson, Port of Kalama, and Derrick Coleman, the coalition's dredging director, reiterated the coalition's request Tuesday: Approve the shoreline permit so that they can get on with developing the Vik site; meanwhile they're adding the FCZD's to their list of sites for their proposed 20-year dredging program.

Commissioners and Islanders on Tuesday repeated their distrust of the proposal. If the coalition would make a formal, written agreement to prioritize the beach disposal, they'd drop opposition to the shoreline permit.

The two projects aren't linked, commented Dena Horton, US Senator Maria Cantwell's SW Washington Outreach Director. Horton has been working with both the county and the coalition to speed up permitting work by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Island residents were curious about the coalition's inland disposal plan.

The Vik site was one of many identified in the Corps channel deepening program which started near the turn of the century and ended in 2010 with a 43-foot channel. The Vik site is the last of the sites to be developed, and the coalition representatives said the Corps is pressuring them to complete that project.

According to information included in the shoreline permit application, dredging crews would deposit up to 2.5 million cubic yards of sand on the 100-acre site. They would construct berms around the site, deposit sand in layers, use a settling pond to clean water used to pump the sand inland, and have pipes across Sunny Sands Road to pump sand inland and return the clean water to the river.

Philip Vik would be responsible for maintenance of the site. Sand would be irrigated until he could establish a cover crop, probably legumes, he said, and once that cover was strong enough, he could run cattle on it.

Sand would be deposited over a period of years, with the height increasing in layers, with a maximum height of 25 feet.

If there were blowing sand or other problems, residents could report them to county authorities for action.

While many speakers supported the suggestion to hold approval of the shoreline permit until there's a written agreement to prioritize deposits on the beach, others urged the county to accept the coalition's proposal.

Horton pointed out that making the FCZD's part of the coalition's program, the coalition would pay program costs, not the county and district property owners.

"It requires compromise and cooperation," she said.

"If all agree, we'll be putting sand on the beach for 20 years," Wilson said."If you have some patience, we'll get to that point. That's the best I can do."

"The benefits are pretty one sided," countered Sunny Sands resident Toni Robinson. "It doesn't benefit us. If we don't get the sand first, we won't get it."

Sunny Sands resident Mike Beutler expressed the opposite view.

"I'm not in favor of sand inside the dike," he said. "But it (the county program funded by assessments on property owners) is going to bankrupt us. So we should work with the ports and Corps to get what we want.

"We need to accept that we can't beat the establishment. In the long run, we'll be better off working with the ports."

The meeting ended after just short of two hours. Commissioners thanked the audience for their input; further action may come at one of their Tuesday meetings.


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