County officials seeking Phase 3 opening
Lack of ready state guidelines may delay state approval
May 28, 2020
By Rick Nelson
Wahkiakum County could move to the less restrictive Phase 3 covid-19 opening, if county officials get their way.
On Tuesday morning, Chris Bischoff, director of Wahkiakum County Health and Human Services (H&HS) told the board of commissioners he would present the request for a variance from state mandated restrictions later that day to the state secretary of Health.
"All our neighbors are in Phase 2 now," he said. "We have been good; we've had no new cases for two weeks.
"But the state hasn't prepared the guideline for Phase 3, so we won't know what to do.
"I hope to hear back from the secretary today or tomorrow (Tuesday or Wednesday," Bischoff said.
Commissioner Gene Strong echoed the comment state officials haven't developed the Phase 2 guidelines, saying it had circulated in a group phone call last Friday involving commissioners from rural counties across the state.
Bischoff said he has seen an initial draft of the guidelines, but they're not finished.
"In my mind they should have started in much sooner," he said. "I know they've been trying to be thoughtful."
"They should be doing things to open up the economy," Strong commented.
Land trust presents Grays River plan
Commissioners and staff of Columbia Land Trust discussed plans for the non-profit conservation agency to acquire two parcels of land around the confluence of the main and west forks of Grays River.
Cherie Kearney, forest conservation director for the land trust, said the group plans to have the site open for recreation and to be able to use its conservation status to free some nearby timberland now encumbered by marbled murrelet habitat conservation rules.
Commissioner Dan Cothren supported the plans, hoping that besides providing outdoor recreation habitat in an area where forest access is limited by private timber companies that stream bank improvements would lower siltation and resulting flood threats in the lower reaches of the Grays River.
The land would remain in the tax base, with the land trust paying property taxes, said Ian Sinks, land trust stewardship director.
Commissioners agreed to consider signing a letter of support or lack of opposition at their June 2 meeting.
In other business:
Commissioners authorized an application to the state Recreation and Conservation Office for a $450,000 grant to cover improvements at Johnson Park in Rosburg, including the septic system, addition of outdoor restrooms, preparation for a playground, and removal of select trees for trail building.
Commissioners approved a letter of support for the Town of Cathlamet's grant application to install a Level 3 electric vehicle charging station at a yet-to-be developed park at the intersection of Main and Butler streets.
Commissioners approved sending a letter to the board of commissioners of Clatsop County, Oregon, requesting cooperation in improving directional signs and traffic control for the approach to the road leading to the Westport ferry landing.
Commissioner Gene Strong agreed to be the designated administrator for the county's $250,000 Cares Act funding allocation from the state. A committee of local officials and business leaders will be formed to recommend appropriations to the board of commissioners for approval.
Commissioners and members of the county Noxious Week Control Board discussed next steps for obtaining funding and permit approval for control of milfoil in county sloughs. The boards are looking to hire a person who is licensed to apply herbicides and work for the weed board.