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

Commissioners send ports' permit back to planners


Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday voted to send shoreline management permit for a coalition of upriver ports back to the county planning commission.

The permit would allow the ports' dredging crews to cross the East Sunny Sands beach and dike road to access a dredge disposal site on Island farmland.

The planning commission had sent the permit to the board of commissioners for final action, but after weeks of discussion before the board on the merits of interior disposal site, planners asked that the board return the permit for further consideration.

"We feel if we are able to pursue several questions we have, we will ultimately be able to provide you with a better product," planning commission Chair Gene Healy said in an email to the board of commissioners. "Our questions, generally, are the need to clarify the impacts on neighboring property owners of placing dredge spoils inside the dike."

The interior spoils site would be on the Philip Vik farm. The site was identified a decade ago as the upriver ports and the US Army Corps of Engineers deepened the Columbia River Channel to 43 feet.

The site is the last of several to be developed as part of the deepening project. According to the permit presented earlier to the board of commissioners, up to 2.5 million cubic yards of sand would be deposited over a period of years on the site. Sand would be deposited to the level of the dike road, and 600 feet back from the road, it would be mounded to a maximum height of 25 feet. Vik has said he would plant a cover crop and use the land for agricultural purposes.

However, action on the permit occurs at the same time that the county commissioners are working to establish a 10-year beach nourishment program at Cape Horn, Sunny Sands, North Welcome Slough Road, and Ostervold Beach. County commissioners have delayed action on the permit and pressed the upriver ports for a written commitment that sand would go on the eroding Sunny Sands beach before it would go inland. Meanwhile, Sunny Sands residents have opposed the proposed parameters for the operation of the inland disposal site.

Planning Commissioner Roy McIntire told the county board Tuesday that planners were dissatisfied with information provided them, and that planners should consider the full impact of the project on the county and local residents.

"Our biggest problem has been transparency and getting information from the applicant," planning commission member Bob Ward said Tuesday.

Philip Vik on Tuesday opposed the planners' request. That board has had opportunities to consider the permit.

"I don't see any advantage to sending it back," he said.

He said that in his recent talks with ports coalition representatives, they've said they would put sand on the beach before sending it inside the dike.

"If they don't get the permit, they said, they'll go to a site in Oregon near the Wauna mill," he added.

Sunny Sands resident Bob Getchell said he was opposed to putting sand inside the dike any higher than the level of the road.

"I don't see how the sand [inside the dike] is enhancing the Island," he said Tuesday. "I just can't understand how anybody would approve that."

County Commissioner Mike Backman suggested mitigation, such as a planting of trees to hide the high sand, might be appropriate.

"That was my idea," Ward said. "If it comes back to us, we can consider something like that."

In the end, Commissioners Mike Backman and Blair Brady voted to send the permit back to the planning commission for further consideration (Commissioner Dan Cothren was at a meeting in Olympia and was excused from the meeting).


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