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

County may go to court to gain rights-of-entry


November 16, 2017

Are the gloves ready to come off?

Wahkiakum County officials are trying to get everything in order for beach nourishment projects next year, and facing one major obstacle.

County officials and their engineering consultants met Tuesday afternoon to go over the final section of the permitting process, the Section 408 review, and they feel good about that, said Commissioner Dan Cothren.

"Once we get this out of the way, I'd say that by January, we'll get some dates (for dredging)," Cothren said. "They'll know what's out there."

He was referring to the amount of sand building up on shoals off Cape Horn and the three Puget Island beaches that make part of the county's four flood control zone districts (FCZD).

"We have to be adamant that when there's sand available, we get to get it on the beaches," he said. "There's obstacles to get there, so we've got to get our T's crossed and I's dotted so we can go ahead."

One obstacle may send the county to court.

In order to have a large enough disposal site to make the work economically feasible, the US Army Corps of Engineers requires right-of-entry easements from all property owners in the zone. If not, the zone isn't used as a disposal site.

And on the Pancake Point zone along East Sunny Sands, two property owners have been reluctant to sign the easements, and commissioners may be ready to start legal proceedings.

Commissioner Mike Backman has taken the lead in communicating with the two parties. One of the parties may be close to signing, Backman said, but the other isn't close, and Backman said he doesn't think he'll able to get the signature.

"I don't know," Backman said. "Maybe letters from the neighbors? Just me taking up his time . . . it doesn't feel any closer."

"We've been playing with this too long," Cothren said. "We need to talk to [Prosecuting Attorney] Dan Bigelow.

"I think we've got to get on the agenda for next week and move ahead. Enough is enough."

"We can discuss it," Backman said.

The county process aims at setting up a 10-year program in which dredging crews could deposit sand on eroding beaches without going through the permitting process again.

Commissioners this week took the opportunity to suggest to the Corps that the county FCZD's be added to the Corps's own 20-year dredging program, which is up for renewal and going through the public comment period.

In a letter approved Tuesday, commissioners commented that channel deepening and vessel movement contribute to erosion problems in the zones.

"As a mitigation measure, Wahkiakum County is requesting that the four sand placement sites be incorporated into the Corps's Lower Columbia River Federal navigation Channel Maintenance Plan as designated dredge material disposal sites," the letter says. "The tax paying citizens who own property within the four sites would gain protection from erosion, and Wahkiakum County would be relieved of the cumbersome permitting process and the high costs that are associated with it."


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