Commission OKs permit to expand Skamokawa water
June 18, 2020
Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday approved a shoreline management permit that could lead Wahkiakum PUD to improve water supply in Skamokawa.
Commissioners approved the permit despite a recommendation, on a 4-3 vote, from the county planning commission to reject it.
The PUD has assumed operation of the Westside Water System. The permit would allow the PUD to connect Brooks Slough and Sleepy Hollow neighborhoods to the system. The project would involve installing new mains and meters and a chlorine treatment device.
Planning commission members had concerns about water rights and funding sources, county Permit Coordinator David Hicks reported. Two planning commission members, Paul Schreiber and Jason Wills, expanded on those concerns.
Planners were told residents could connect to the new mains and keep their own spring water rights, Schreiber said, but they were later told those rights would be acquired by the PUD.
Also, the project would serve only 12 residences but cost up to $1 million to serve people who already have water.
Wills repeated concerns about the water rights and added that he didn't think the project covered a large enough area.
Some of the residents who would be served have serious water issues, said commission Chair Dan Cothren. For example, their springs dry up in long, dry summers. Also, untreated spring water can be contaminated by animals, leading to beaver fever.
"There's a lot of issues here," he said. "Too many things can go wrong."
Wahkiakum PUD officers joined the discussion by telephone.
The cost of the project is actually pegged at $550,000, said PUD Commissioner Dennis Reid, and the connections that would be served have been under boil waters for years.
"The state came to us and asked us to do this," he said, adding that funding comes from a 100 percent state grant, and that PUD personnel had surveyed residents before deciding to proceed.
"This is a project the state wants, and they've given us the money," Reid said.
"This is the first time I've heard a reason to do the project," Schreiber said. With the further explanations, he likely would have changed his vote, he said.
While the project doesn't cover the whole community, it's a start, Cothren said.
"You'd better tap into what you can get," he said. "There's a need; this is a first step."
The motion to approve the permit passed 3-0.