County commission addresses flooding, dredging issues
February 21, 2019
Wahkiakum County commissioners heard a plea for drainage work near Deep River, decided how to address the latest challenge to their dredging permit process and addressed other issues when they met Tuesday.
Wirkkala Road resident Nick Nikkila expressed frustration with drainage issues that cause flooding in that neighborhood. Two culverts and tidegates on Wirkkala Road need to be replaced; they're failing and too small to handle drainage in heavy rain events.
He showed a video of his vehicle ploughing through water to reach his driveway and his house.
"During the winter of 2016-17, our driveway and Wirkkala Road were under water for over 70 days, and the field remained under water for over 90 days," Nikkila said. "That’s 70 days when we could not have visitors. That’s 70 days when we had to be back in the house before it gets dark. If you think the daylight trip through the water you just saw is difficult, you should try it after dark.
"I am a member of the Naselle-Grays River Valley School Board and have had to attend board meetings wearing chest waders in order to wade out to the county road and back. Is this how you feel residents of the county you govern should live?
"For 12 years I have been talking with county officials including road crew members, Chuck Beyer, the past county engineer, and a member of this commission. All I have received is platitudes and fake projections. I’ve spoken to enough county individuals over a long enough period that any reasonable person would feel is sufficient to receive a positive response. So, if it takes a squeaky wheel to get the grease, I’m here to squeak."
Nikkila added that other culverts and tidegates along Deep River need to be repaired, and that a sinkhole under the dike road has created a traffic hazard, even after being filled by the county road crew.
Commissioners and road department personnel acknowledged Nikkila's complaints and frustrations.
County Engineer Paul Lacy said there are two hurdles to replacing the culverts and tide gates--the county has no money for the work and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife wants the culverts replaced with bridges to enhance habitat for juvenile salmon.
The area isn't flooded now, so the county can't declare an emergency and do the work under the rules for emergency response, said Public Works Director Chuck Beyer.
Financing culvert replacement is a big problem across the state, said Commissioner Dan Cothren.
He asked Beyer and Lacy to prepare a plan and outline of what is needed so that commissioners can press legislators and Fish and Wildlife officials for funds and leeway to address the situation.
In other business, commissioners agreed not to do, for the moment, a biological study of streaked horn lark nesting on four acres at the county sand pit on Puget Island.
The area is part of one of four erosion control zone districts for which the county is trying to establish a long term beach nourishment program. Federal agencies say dredged sand couldn't be deposited there during the nesting season of the endangered species, June 1 through Sept. 16.
The county can either undertake the biological study or ignore it and understand no dredged materials would be deposited during the nesting season, Public Works Director Beyer said.
Commissioner Cothren commented that he didn't want to see the issue become a barrier for completing the permit application process and prevent beach nourishment at the other erosion zones.
He suggested declining to do the study for now but keeping options open to do a study at a later date so the dredging season could opener earlier if the larks weren't present. By consensus, the board agreed to this approach.