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

Rep. Jim Walsh visits county commission to discuss local issues


December 21, 2017

Rick Nelson

State Rep. James Walsh listens as Wahkiakum County commissioners outline issues that concern them.

Wahkiakum County commissioners visited with Rep. James Walsh Tuesday and handled a variety of other business.

The visit was part of an effort by the Washington Association of Counties to get state legislators and local officials together to discuss issues and concerns. Last week, Sen. Dean Takko and Rep. Brian Blake visited the commission meeting.

Commissioners covered a variety of issues, including dissatisfaction with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) management of diseased elk herds, unfunded mandates, tax and timber revenues, and so on.

Commissioner Dan Cothren reviewed his concerns that WDFW and the state fish and wildlife commission are allowing too much hunting on diseased elk herds in the county and won't listen to local input.

"Unless you curtail some of your seasons, you won't have anything to hunt," Cothren said.

He commented that the agency has prioritized salmon recovery efforts over wildlife.

"The biggest thing--the agency has become a machine; it just keeps growing (with employees)," said Commissioner Mike Backman. The agency just chases grants and other funding only in order to make jobs for employees, he continued.

Further, it's unaccountable to the public or the legislature.

"Get some of your guys to go to their meetings," Backman said. "Pay attention to what they're doing."

Walsh, a Republican, echoed criticism of WDFW, adding he would support a bill to split the agency into separate departments for fisheries and wildlife.

"I think the agency needs massive reform," he said. "Taking it back to what it was 30 years ago might be the biggest reform.

"They have massive management issues from the top on down."

Walsh said he would work with county officials on these and other natural resource issues, such as the county's effort to exchange trust timber land encumbered by endangered species habitat restrictions on logging with other trust land that could be harvested and generate revenue for county programs.

Commissioner Blair Brady commented that the 1 percent lid on levy increases for counties, cities and towns and other small entities hurts the agencies, especially when the legislature requires them to perform services but doesn't provide funding.

At other times, funding is too tightly restricted.

"We don't have the ability to put the funds where our county needs them," he said.

In other business Tuesday:

--The board passed resolutions setting budgets and tax levies for 2018;

--Health and Human Services Assistant Director Chris Holmes said the department would have warming shelters open this week in Cathlamet and during other periods of cold weather.

During the day, the community center on Main Street will be open, and during nights, the Johnson House on River Street will be open.

"This will be a real stretch for us," Holmes said. "We have no additional funding or staff for it."


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