Dredging, hoof rot occupy commissioners

Lack of state's Capital Budget shifts recycling program expense


September 28, 2017

The fun never stops for the Wahkiakum County board of commissioners.

The board recessed their meeting last week to interview two candidates to take over as director of the department of Health and Human Services. On Wednesday, they reconvened and voted 3-0 to offer the position to Chris Bischoff, who is currently the environmental health manager for Cowlitz County Health and Human Services. He is also the president of the Washington State Association of Local Public Health Officials. He is replacing Sue Cameron, who is retiring from the postion; his first official day on the job will be October 23.

At their Tuesday meeting this week, commissioners covered issues ranging from dredging and elk hoof rot to recycling.

Commissioner Dan Cothren reported officials from the US Army Corps of Engineers and county staff had met and discussed parameters of the Section 408 study required to analyze potential impacts of beach nourishment projects on Puget Island and Cape Horn.

Cothren said the work won't be as expensive as commissioners initially feared.

"We can work with it," he said.

The 408 study should be the last required of the county, and when finished, the county's flood control zone districts should be ready to receive dredge spoils, if dredging is needed in those areas.

Commissioner Mike Backman said two absentee land owners are still declining to sign entry easements to allow dredge crews to work along their frontages. The Corps wants the easements for all parcels in a flood control zone to make a large disposal area.

"I don't think the one is going to sign," Backman said.

Cape Horn resident Trish Shroyer recommended Sunny Sands residents write personal letters to the holdouts and explain the damage they're facing from erosion. Letters were effective in getting a Cape Horn holdout to sign, she said.

"If you're taxing people in the flood zones, it's not fair to them if they can't get any benefit," Cothren commented. "We're probably going to have to be proactive."

Commissioners declined to move forward with a letter from them, as county board of health, asking Dr. Boone Mora to collect and analyze tissue samples from elk suffering hoof rot disease.

Last week, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow told commissioners that state law doesn't give them that authority.

Mora and Commissioner Cothren expressed frustration at the opinion.

Public health law gives the authority to the board of health, Mora said.

"You (the commission acting as the board of health) have the responsibility and authority to protect the lives of the people in this county from disease," Mora said.

Mora contends elk hoof rot is caused by leptospira bacteria, which can be transmitted to humans and cause illness and death.

"I've been with you," Cothren said."But you have to follow the advice of your attorney.

"We approve of the hard work and the passion you show for this," said Commissioner Backman. "The best we can do is arrange a workshop with the attorney and the health officer and maybe from the clinic, if they have had any cases.

"That's the best we can do. We can't go forward today."

"I think it's an ongoing thing," Cothren said. "We'll keep hammering on it. I know it's frustrating."

Public Works Director Chuck Beyer advised the commission on one of the results of the legislature's failure to pass the Capital Budget: The county has lost its funding for its recycling program.

The recycling grant provides $45,000 for the program; the county contracts with two haulers to empty recycling bins at Puget Island, Cathlamet, Skamokawa and KM Mountain.

However, the grant funding should have started last July 1, but without the budget approval, the county has been responsible for all the costs.

"If we pull the containers and sites, we'll have garbage everywhere," Beyer said.

"We can't do that," Cothren said.

Backman suggested getting rid of the recycling containers, which require a large truck to move, and instead modify lifestock trailers which could be hauled by smaller vehicles.

Cothren asked Beyer to check with the prosecuting attorney to find a reserve that could be used to cover the costs until the Capital Budget is approved.

Commissioners recessed the meeting by adjourning to 11:30 a.m. Monday when they'll head to Skamokawa and a tour of streambank and other projects sponsored by the Wahkiakum Conservation district.


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