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

County dredging plan meets new hurdle


February 14, 2019

The latest hurdle to finishing Wahkiakum County's permit applications to deposit dredge spoils on eroding beaches isn't very big, but it could delay any beach nourishment to next fall.

A biological assessment of one of the county's four flood control erosion zones has found streaked horn larks use it as a nesting area. Because they're a federally designation endangered species, they can't be disturbed during their nesting season.

That season runs June through September, the bulk of the permitted dredging season.

County Public Works Director Chuck Beyer said Tuesday he was trying to hold a conference call with US Army Corps of Engineers officials from the Seattle and Portland offices to ask if the dredging schedule could be adjusted to accommodate the nesting season. The Crops's Seattle office is handling the permit application while the Portland office schedules dredging.

If the dredge schedule can accommodate the nesting, the permit process will likely come to a close. If not, the county may have to complete a full biological consultation which would delay the completion till later this year.

The larks are found only around the sand pit at the end of Ostervold Road, Beyer said, and not at the other three erosion zone districts. However, all four zones are included in the single permit application.

"One site can stop all other sites," Beyer said. "If we don't have to do the full consultation, we're done (with the permit application process). We just need to find out if they can work with it."

Johnson House

In other business, commissioners agreed by consensus to ask Public Works Department personnel to prepare a financial analysis to using the Johnson House as a rental house.

The board and department heads have been considering the concept for several weeks, with the suggestion being that it could provide housing for county employees who have a hard time finding housing in the county's tight rental market.

Commissioner Dan Cothren said he is leery of having the county manage a rental; they've done that before and had many problems.

Commissioners Mike Backman and Gene Strong both said they wanted to study a financial analysis before making a decision. Backman commented that if the county sold the property, which abuts the courthouse property, it would be hard and expensive to repurchase.

Two people who have managed rental property spoke.

Cape Horn resident Richard Erickson warned of hidden costs and exposing the county to charges of favortism if the public is excluded from being able to rent the house.

Sheriff Mark Howie commented that the county should think of the future and not give up ownership and also that managing a single rental unit would be a manageable task.

Ferry rate adjustment

Commissioners also asked Beyer to continue developing a proposal to update ferry rates to ease the burden on vehicles towing trailers.

Beyer said the rate policy could be adjusted to charge trailers as if they were vehicles unless they exceeded a certain length.

He added that the new rates would have to be approved by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The board instructed Beyer to start the process, and Backman asked that multi-trip punch card rates also be established for bicycles and pedestrians.


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