Commissioners okay fish trap permit, call for hearing on shoreline program


October 14, 2021

Wahkiakum County commissioners approved a controversial application for a shoreline management permit for a fish trap when they met Tuesday.

Commissioners also authorized development of a resolution to adopt an update to the county shoreline management program, and joined department heads in a discussion of budget plans and information technology program needs.

Two local men working with the group Wild Fish Conservancy and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) have applied to install a fish trap along Hunting Island below Cathlamet. The trap's primary purpose, they say, is to gather data on salmon and steelhead passage and migration patterns in the area.

The county planning commission voted to deny the permit, citing concerns that program goals were unclear, that the location would interfere with tourism and recreation, with sports and commercial fishing activities, and that there was no guarantee pilings would be removed when the program was finished.

The county commission, however, was willing to approve the application after reviewing information provided by Wild Fish Conservancy biologist Adrian Tuohy..

Adrian Tuohy commented that the goals of the program have been clearly stated, and that WDFW has provided a strong letter of support for the intended research.

"We respectfully disagree that the location will impact sport or commercial fishing," he said. He added that kayakers passing the existing trap above Cathlamet are happy to stop and visit with trap operators, and the kayakers have no problem navigating around it. The location of the new trap isn't on the wildlife refuge, he said, and under proposed program plans, pilings would be removed when the project ends.

Commission Chair Gene strong asked his colleagues if they wanted to send the permit back to the planning commission for reconsideration, but Commissioners Dan Cothren and Lee Tischer were ready to act.

"The letter (from the biologist) answers a lot of my questions," Cothren said. "With the answers I've heard . . . I'm ready to move forward."

Cothren also commented he thinks the data from the trap research can be used to adjust openings to give local fishers more time on the river in this area rather than being forced to go upriver to fish.

Tischer said his biggest concern is that pilings would be removed when the research program ends.

Cothren moved to approve the permit, and Tischer seconded with the understanding, he said, that the pilings would be removed in five years unless the program is renewed.

In other business

l Commissioners said they were ready to move forward with an update of the county's shoreline management program. They'll schedule a public hearing on the update developed by the county Real Property Rights Advisory Group, and with approval after the hearing, the updated program would be forwarded to the state Department of Ecology for review.

l Treasurer Tammy Peterson reviewed the county's financial position in preparation for development of 2022 budgets. Revenue from the harvest of county trust timber will total a bit over $1.7 million this year, higher than the $1.2 million budget for the year. However, she added, another $1 million expected state appropriation in compensation for encumbered timberland hasn't arrived.

Cothren expressed confidence that the latter $1 million would come late this year.

l Commissioners and department heads discussed work their salary commission is doing to update wage and salary scale parameters, and Cothren asked department heads not to include potential step increases in their budget requests. The salary group needs time to finish its work, he said.

Treasurer Peterson suggested it would be better to have the new parameters this year rather than create budgets that would have to be amended next year.

l In discussion of information technology concerns, Strong said the county IT committee feels the staff needs a second member. IT Manager Josh Holt works alone, he said, and it would be good to have a backup.

"As we move more into technology, it's putting a whole lot more work and responsibility on Josh," Strong said. "He's just one person. It's challenging. I think we need to look at putting someone else in with him."

Holt commented that it has become very challenging to keep up with maintenance needs, addressing security concerns and pitching in to assist in responding to public record requests.

The officials agreed they'd like to add an entry level position to the IT department.


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