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

Corps calls for more permits for dredging


By Rick Nelson Just like the river that's eroding beaches and threatening property on Cape Horn and Puget Island shorelines, the requirement for permits to address the situation just keeps flowing.

Wahkiakum County's board of commissioners, acting as commissioners for four flood control zone districts (FCZD), have been working for two years to set up beach nourishment programs that replenish eroded beaches with sand dredged from shoals in the Columbia River navigation channel.

With biological studies and engineering nearing completion this year, county officials had hoped to have permits in order for the sites so that dredging crews could place available sand on at least two of the eroding beaches this year.

However, the US Army Corps of Engineers, which manages maintenance of the channel and acts on permit applications, this year added two more--an archeological survey for the Cape Horn site and Section 408 review to analyze the effects of beach nourishment on the downstream environment.

Commissioners initially thought the 408 review would focus on the East Sunny Sands site, for Corps officials expressed concern about sand eroding in the future and impacting the channel for the Puget Island ferry.

This week, however, commissioners received a letter from Valerie Ringold, chief of the planning and economics section of the Corps's Portland office, stating the 408 studies are required for the three Puget Island FCZD's, Pancake Point (East Sunny Sands), North Welcome Slough/Aegerter, and Sand Pit (Ostervold Road).

County commissioners on Tuesday said they were unhappy with the expanded 408 study requirement because it's an added expense and a potential delay.

Commissioner Dan Cothren said county officials hoped to meet with Corps officials this week to discuss the situation.

In the letter, Ringold said, "The Corps is primarily concerned that the proposed dredged material placement may have adverse impacts on our ability to maintain Federal projects with respect to the following:

"a. The Corps' ability to maintain the authorized channel depth;

"b. material placement or re-handling may be required in order to maintain the authorized depth (increasing Federal costs), and

"c. the hydraulic effects from dredged material placement as proposed, will not increase shoaling from existing levels within the Federal Navigation and Ferry Channels."

The letter also outlines information the Corps requires for the 408 review.

For Pancake Point, the concern is that sand will erode from the beach and fill up the ferry channel. The Corps has appropriated $4 million for ferry channel maintenance and has so far used $895,000. When the $4 million limit is reached, it will be the county's responsibility to pay for dredging, Ringold said.

The Corps asks how depositing sand in the three FCZD's would impact the shipping channel; where would it go when it erodes; are there design modifications that reduce impacts to the channel; what is the rate of erosion, and for Welcome Slough, how would placing sand along the levee impact the levee.

Also, Ringold said that sand placed on the Cape Horn beach could erode back into locations from which it came, and further, residents had raised concerns that sand eroding from that beach would cause shoaling in the Cathlamet Channel.

Ringold said the Sand Pit site doesn't need a 408 review because previous fill has remained stable.

If the county's responses indicate there would be adverse impacts, there may be design modifications which would alleviate the impacts, Ringold said.

Cothren listed his frustrations with the extensive 408 reviews.

"The cost would be ridiculous," said Commissioner Dan Cothren. He said erosion from a Cape Horn disposal would have no more effect on the Cathlamet Channel than the Corps's own disposal site at the head of Puget Island, which is causing shoaling. Also, he commented that the Corps's pile dikes cause huge eddies which erode beaches, especially at Pancake Point.

"I'm having a real hard time with the 408," Cothren said. "It seems like there's something new every week. This is my biggest worry with the system--how do you get anything done?"

Commissioner Mike Backman reported making progress on a related issue--convincing reluctant Puget Island landowners to sign right-of-entry easments so dredge crews can work along their shorelines.

The Corps is requiring long stretches of shoreline for sand disposal; they say it is uneconomical to deposit sand in a small area.

Backman said he thought that all but two reluctant Island property owners would sign easements this week; the remaining two are absentee owners and harder to meet with.

All Cape Horn owners have signed the easements.


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