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

Beach erosion: Sand only for Cape Horn

Updated with correction


August 16, 2018

Wahkiakum County is nearing the end of its two-year old effort to set up a 10-year permit for depositing dredged sand on four eroding shorelines, but county commissioners and residents learned Tuesday that there is sand for only one of the sites.

US Army Corps of Engineers officials reported this past week that there is a need for Columbia River channel dredging only at Cape Horn, Public Works Director Chuck Beyer said Tuesday. Corps officials anticipate that dredging and beach nourishment will occur in early October.

That means property owners on East Sunny Sands, North Welcome Slough Road and Ostervold Road will have to wait at least another year before sand can be deposited on their eroding shorelines.

Beyer said the county’s engineering consultant is trying to wrap up the final details on the permit applications so that dredging crews can deposit sand when it starts to create shoals in the shipping channel.

“We’re making a big push for all sites to be approved by mid-September,” Beyer said. “It did come out that there’s no sand for all locations this year.

“You may have seen the hopper dredge working along the Island. It’s just dumping sand in a sump that will be emptied where there’s a large amount of sand to be moved.”

Beyer said dredgers will contact Cape Horn property owners to talk about the work before it starts. They’ll walk the shoreline and point out any structure or planting that might need to be moved or any other concerns.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Dan Cothren reported he had met Monday with Corps officials and representatives of Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler to seek a way to include the lower end of the East Sunny Sands zone from beach nourishment. County officials had excluded the area from the proposed nourishment site because Corps officials were concerned that it’s likely that deposited sand would erode into the channel which the Corps maintains for the county ferry, and that would be an unfunded expense to their dredging program. COunty officials feared that negotiations to include the area would delay the entire permitting process for all four erosion control zones. [The original version of this story said it was a Corps decision to exclude the area. --editor]

However, residents of that particular erosion control zone district say erosion is threatening their property just as it is not far upstream.

Cothren said Corps officials plan to develop an estimate of costs for the potential work, and after that, they’ll meet again.

“They’re busy, but we have some time,“ Cothren said.

Sunny Sands resident J.B. Robinson suggested the Corps could move the pile dike that’s causing so much erosion at Pancake Point downstream, and its eddy would scour the channel clean. County officials and shoreline residents have pointed out that the pile dikes do create eddies which erode the shorelines below them.

“They’ll tell you they don’t have the money to work on pile dikes,” Cothren said.

County officials have financial concerns of their own. So far, the current dredging program has cost almost $200,000, and even though the county levies an assessment of the erosion control zone districts, the county’s Flood Control Fund has been hit hard, and Cothren said that fund needs to have sufficient money to spend on potential situations elsewhere in the county.

“But we’ll just keep striving for it,” Cothren said, “and get our ducks in a row for when there is sand volume there.”


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