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

Commissioners reconsider scope of dike road work


December 28, 2017

Wahkiakum County commissioners want to reconsider details of a plan to make improvements to the two sections of Steamboat Slough Road along the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge.

County Engineer Paul Lacy brought the issue to the board of commissioners on Tuesday, thinking the board might want consider the merits of changing plans.

The county has received a Federal Highway Administration Grant to asphalt 1,200 feet of road, pave turnouts and parking areas and install shoulder rock, interpretive kiosks, guardrail and signs. The grant totals $290,900, and the county is responsible for a 13 percent match, $33,000, which is in the road program budget.

Lacy suggested the commissioners consider how the county could address the project.

"The federal money has strings," he said. "They don't want the county to design the project; they want to hire a consultant to do the design and a contractor to do the work."

For the amount of use the road has, county personnel could do the work, with gravel turnarounds instead of paved, and have the same function, he said.

"If we use the federal money, the design and the contractor will come from outside the county, and the money won't be spent here," Lacy said. "

The board has three choices, he said:

1. The county could refuse the money and do the work itself;

2. The county could continue with the grant program is outlined, and

3. "We could do nothing," Lacy said.

Commissioners wanted to see the project proceed, preferably in-house, but they asked Lacy if variations are possible.

"Do we have any leeway," asked Commissioner Mike Backman. "I'd like to see a bridge across the gap for walkers. Is there any way to get that footbridge?"

The county road was severed almost two years ago as part of a project to relocate the dike protecting the refuge and adjacent farmland. The US Fish and Wildlife Service built a new dike setback from the Columbia River shoreline and severed the original dike to create new wetlands for juvenile fish habitat.

"I agree with you," Lacy responded to Backman. "We can apply for money in 2018 for that bridge.

"But if we turn it down, would they support the new project? The bridge wouldn't be in the scope of this project."

"Talk to them and see," Backman said. "We want to be careful with their money."

"I'll see if we can add the bridge," Lacy said.

"The walking bridge is a great direction to go, but I hate the idea of take-it-or-lose-it money," said board Chair Blair Brady.

Lacy said he would contact the federal officials and see what changes could be made to the scope of the project. He said he was also confident he could justify the cost effectiveness of county personnel doing the construction because of lower equipment mobilization costs.

"Let's try to do it in-house," said Commissioner Dan Cothren. "Keep the money local."

"Thank you," Lacy said, and the discussion ended.


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