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

Corps outlines plan for dredging sump, Island sand disposal needs


As Wahkiakum County commissioners try to set up a long-term dredge disposal program to nourish eroding beaches at Cape Horn and on Puget Island, they've encountered a concern from the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The county has set up four flood control zone districts (FCZD) for beach nourishment, and commissioners are trying to obtain easements from property owners in the districts to allow dredging crews to work along the shoreline. All property owners in a district must sign the easements, for the Corps has said it won't deposit sand in a non-contiguous zone.

There remain some property owners in the Cape Horn and Pancake Point/East Sunny Sands zones who haven't signed easements, and that could preclude beach nourishment this year.

Commissioners have received a letter from the Corps stating that they plan to create a sump--a ditch in the river bottom--off East Sunny Sands and fill it with sand from area shoals. When the sump is full, they'll pump the sand into the county's FCZD and onto a site inside the Island dikes on the Philip Vik farm.

The disposal sites are awaiting permit approval. For the county, the easements and two other permits are needed. The Vik site, sponsored by a coalition of upriver ports, a commission-approved shoreline management permit is needed; commissioners had received that permit but last week sent it back to the county planning commission for further consideration.

Delays in the approval of either the Vik site permit or the county's FCZD could change the Corps's plans and send the sand across the river to disposal sites in Oregon.

"We have determined that in order to maintain the channel, it is important that we create the sump this coming dredging season, summer of 2017," Kevin Brice, Corps deputy district engineer for project management, wrote in a May 4 letter to the county commission.

Brice said the preferred option would be to use the Vik property, which would be most cost effective.

"When pumping the material to the Vik property, it is relatively easy and cost effective to pump the material needed along the Pancake Point shoreline, as requested in the permit application. However, it is essential that both the Vik property and the county's shoreline placement areas are ready for use at the same time. Without the Vik property, the Pancake Point site would be far too expensive to utilize unless the county were willing to pay the incremental costs.

"Alternatively, if the Vik property and the shoreline placement sites are not both ready, we will create the sump by pumping the material to the James River disposal site. If we use the James River disposal site, we will not place material at Pancake Point unless the county were willing to pay incremental costs."

Property owners facing erosion expressed concern that people not signing easements could hurt the county's chances for beach nourishment this year.

"So a few people stand there and watch other people's house go in the river," East Sunny Sands reident J.B. Robinson commented at the commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Commissioner Dan Cothren said Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow would contact some reluctant signers, not to threaten but to give detailed answers to questions and concerns.

"We're not going to strong arm," said Commissioner Mike Backman.

Island resident Kristen Lee said she and other people are concerned about the length of the program and easements. The county is applying for a 10-year program, and the upriver ports have offered to include the zones in their proposed 20-year program.

She suggested the county go for a short program with one nourishment event so people could see it works and put concerns to rest.

Commissioner Dan Cothren responded that there haven't been problems in previous nourishment events, and the county would like to avoid repeating the costly permit application process.

Cape Horn resident Trish Shroyer asked if the county would pursue imminent domain actions to obtain the easements.

"I couldn't say," Cothren said. "That's a long process and would cost money. Hopefully we can persuade the folks to tap into this."

"I totally agree with the 20-year program," said Sunny Sands land owner Liz Beutler. "There's the cost and even the chance that you'll get sand again. It's really heartbreaking to have to come here every 10 years and beg for sand.

" For people who haven't been here [in previous sand placement events], I've had nothing but good experiences with the crews."


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