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

Commissioners struggle to obtain rights-of-entry


Wahkiakum County commissioners continue to deal with beach nourishment issues while attending to other business.

On Tuesday, commissioners and residents living along eroding Columbia River shorelines discussed hurdles in the way of setting up a program to deposit dredge spoils on those beaches.

The county is working to set up a long-term beach nourishment program under the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has said it needs a long, unbroken stretch of beach to make beach nourishment economical, and the county is working to obtain right-of-entry easements from all property owners in the flood control zone districts.

There are, however, some people declining to sign the easements.

The Cape Horn district has one committed holdout, commissioners said. Both Commissioners Dan Cothren and Mike Backman have met with the party.

"I met with the man, and we walked and talked two hours," Backman said at Tuesday's meeting of the board of commissioners. "I don't think it's going to happen.

"He feels strongly that it's your property and you can protect yourself."

Cothren added that the property owner is also concerned about the potential impact of sand drifting into the Cathlamet Channel, which is experiencing significant shoaling.

If there were no entry easement for the property, it would split the Cape Horn district and jeopardize a Corps beach nourishment program.

"It's hard to comprehend," said Cape Horn resident Richard Erickson. "We're really up against the wall. "Half of us aren't going to get sand one way or another."

Backman has also been talking to reluctant signers on Puget Island, and he said some are starting to sign.

Commissioner Blair Brady said the board would consider what options it has, including exercising the right of eminent domain to gain the easements.

"Unfortunately, that's a time consuming option," he said.

Cothren said Corps officials have said there is sand that could be deposited on beaches this year, if the county obtains the easements and finishes the permitting process.

"We've got to start the process, whatever we're going to do," he said.

In other business, commissioners adopted an ordinance deleting superseded or obsolete sections of parts of the county code. The deletions included:

-- Revised Code of Wahkiakum County (RCWC) 2.84, regarding relations with the defunct Timberlands Regional Support Network;

--RCWC 2.140 regulating the employees of the county's defunct Wahkiakum Family Practice Clinic;

--RCWC9.05, a 1967 chapter creating a youth curfew which, given the past 50 years constitutional jurisprudence, is likely unenforceable today, and

--RCWC 53.08.130 and RCWC 53.12.150, prohibiting firearms in County Line Park and Skamokawa Vista Park, which have been preempted by state law.

Commissioners also adopted amendments to subdivision ordinances to require drainage easements where land is traversed by a water way, including ditches or other channels.

Commissioners of Consolidated Diking District No. 1 on Puget Island had asked for the amendments. They and property owners have recently testified about small parcels split from large properties without drainage provided to the new parcels.

Commissioners and department heads held a workshop to discuss needs for future budgeting.

Sheriff Mark Howie raised to major concerns.

First, sheriff's office staff are underpaid compared to officers in other counties, and this severely impacts the department's ability to retain employees. Department staff are paid 30-38 percent lower than the state average, he said.

Second, the increasing incarceration of people with mental health problems is severely impacting the jail.

There aren't enough spaces in mental health facilities, so people needing placement there must remain in jail. It's a bad environment for them, and they often have severe problems.

"We're going to need a part-time nurse practitioner for mental health," Howie said.

"Our jail is full," he added. "We used to house six or seven inmates, but now it's out of control."


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