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

County commission supporting requests for SR 401, dredge spoils


Wahkiakum County residents on Tuesday called on the county board of commissioners to use their political influence to address problems in the region.

Grays River resident Karen Bertroch asked the board to press the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to construct a one-lane bypass around a slide that has closed SR 401 between Naselle and the Astoria-Megler Bridge.

Altoona/Pillar Rock Road resident Steve Gacke sought commission advocacy in getting the US Army Corps of Engineers to add the area waterfront to sites receiving dredge spoils.

Commissioners said they would support both requests, and they also approved the Johnson Park board of directors for painting of hallways.

WSDOT closed SR 401 about four miles from the bridge as one lane started slipping into the Columbia River. The agency said the closure could last months.

Bertroch commented that the closure has a severe impact on residents of the Westend and Naselle areas who travel the route to the Astoria area for business, employment and varied shopping. The alternate route, she added, leads along Willapa Bay to US 101 which has a bottleneck where a culvert repair has closed the road to one lane.

Bertroch added that people with experience building logging roads say a safe bypass could easily be constructed to allow one-lane traffic at the slide while a permanent solution is developed.

Commissioners said they are addressing the situation and would push the state to act quickly.

Commissioner Dan Cothren said he had already consulted with Pacific County Commissioner Lisa Olsen about the situation.

"WSDOT will go through the paces; they'll bring in a geotech to study the slide," he said. "I don't agree with that. They take too much time.

"But with the state, they have rules and regulations they have to follow."

"They've known this area was moving for a long time," commented commission Chair Gene Strong. "They should have had a plan."

"We'll push on it," Cothren said. "You can't just sit back and sit on it."

Commissioners also said they would support efforts to bring dredged sand deposits to selected areas along Altoona/Pillar Rock Road.

Area resident Steve Gacke said residents weren't adverse to paying a reasonable assessment similar to the county's formal flood control erosion zone districts. He said it appears the area could be included in the Corps's 20-year disposal plan, but quick action is needed before Corps planning becomes too advanced.

Commissioners said they would send a letter of support and also lobby in meetings.

Besides approving the expense for painting of hallways at Johnson Park, commissioners heard a report from Cecile Bamer, manager of the Community Recreation Center.

Bamer said she is focusing on two projects. One is providing employment services for employers and job seekers. The other is revitalizing a mentoring program to bring adults and youth together.

"We've had to be very creative," Bamer said. "The word for the pandemic year is ‘pivot.'"


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