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

Progress is slow for dredging programs


March 15, 2018

By Rick Nelson

The progress is, oh, so slow.

One is speaking, of course, of Wahkiakum County's effort to set up a program to nourish eroding beaches on Puget Island and Cape Horn.

In response to queries from Island residents, Commissioner Dan Cothren on Tuesday reported a bit of progress on one of two fronts.

First, the county's consulting engineers met last week with the US Army Corps of Engineers to go over latest demands on the Section 408 permit, which analyzes a proposed project's impacts on neighboring property.

Corps officials continue to express concern that dredged sand deposited on the Sunny Sands beach will erode and collect in the channel for the Puget Island ferry, Cothren said, and that would lead to increased expense for maintenance of that channel. The county should be able to resolve that issue, he said.

"I think we'll be fine," Cothren said.

He added that a Corps's pile dike upstream from the ferry landing creates an eddy that is a powerful eroding force. The Corps owns responsibility for that, he said.

"I think that will be an argument we'll have to be political on," he said. "Why should we have to pay all the costs when it's the Corps's pile dike that's causing the problem?"

Second, the county hasn't made expected progress in obtaining the final access easement from owners of a property in the middle of the Sunny Sands erosion zone.

The Corps requires a contiguous area for spoils deposition, and county officials have been communicating for some time with the owners, who have said they're concerned about impacts on a retaining wall.

"We're waiting for the prosecuting attorney to get a letter out and get them to sign off," Cothren said. "There are some holdouts on the Welcome Slough zone but none affect Sunny Sands or Cape Horn. I don't see any roadblocks that will hold things down there."

Commissioners have said they would resort to imminent domain condemnation if they can't get the necessary signatures for the deposition zone.

The delay concerns other residents of the Sunny Sands zone.

"Why is it held up on our end," asked Mike Beutler. County officials should act promptly so that the process isn't waiting on them, he added.

Cothren agreed.

"It (the letter to the property owners) has to come before us," he said. "I'm not happy, either."

Commissioner Blair Brady reported he had informed federal representatives of the slow progress while he was in Washington D.C. last week for the national meeting of the National Association of County Officials (NACO). He said he met personally with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler three times on various issues and also with the staffs of Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

Two White House officials attended a meeting with NACO officials and were seeking examples of problems around the country with permitting. Brady said he went to his hotel room and returned with a letter about dredge permitting issues with the Corps and photos of erosion damage at Cape Horn residences.

"They got the information and the photos," he said. "I don't know what they'll do with it, but at least I passed it on."


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