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

County asked to help with Grays Bay situation

Dredging outlook looks good

 

March 28, 2019



Wahkiakum County commissioners expressed confidence Tuesday that Columbia River channel dredging this summer will be able to bolster eroding beaches at Cape Horn and on Puget Island.

And with that, commissioners would be able to focus on other issues, such as siltation of Grays Bay.

On behalf of the Grays River Habitat Enhancement District, Rosburg resident Poul Toftemark on Tuesday asked commissioners to work with the US Army Corps of Engineers to tackle that issue.

The Corps created an island from dredge spoils that blocks the outlets of the Grays and Deep River and inhibits the flushing action of the rivers, he said. Silt from the heavily logged Grays River basin has filled the channels and the bay. The blocked outlets hold up storm runoff and have exacerbated flooding in the area, he said.

"I am here to plead for a little help down there," he said.

The Corps has acknowledged the problem but says the agency lacks funds to do anything about it, he said, adding that he feels shipping companies profiting from channel dredging should pay fees for mitigating the adverse impacts the shipping creates.

"Dredging (of the Grays and Deep River channels) will probably never happen," Toftemark said. "We have looked for a grant to put wooden obstacles that would force the river to clean out the channel."

Commissioners were sympathetic and said they would address the situation.

"I remember when they put that island in," said Commissioner Gene Strong, a Rosburg resident. "We brought it up, and they said not many people would be affected."

Commission Chair Dan Cothren said he would raise the issue with Corps officials once the county's dredging program at Cape Horn and Puget Island was underway.

"It's a fishery issue," he commented. "The young fish [salmon] go in there, and the terns just annihilate them. It's just going to get worse."

Commissioners will hold a work session with Corps officials in June, Strong said, and the issue can be discussed then.

Meanwhile, Cothren said he's confident eroding beaches at Cape Horn and Puget Island will get sand this summer.

He and county Public Works Director Chuck Beyer attended a day-long meeting last week in which Corps staff discussed dredging plans for 2019, and the plans included the county's erosion districts.

"They're on the agenda for the June window," Cothren said. "From what I heard, there's plent of volume out there, and once the snow melts, the freshets will bring down more."

 

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