New program offers wood stove relief


December 2, 2021

If you’d like to retrofit your fireplace, or have ever thought about replacing your old woodstove or perhaps just getting rid of it, you may be able to receive some financial aid to do so, thanks to the Southwest Clean Air Agency (SWCAA) and the efforts of some former and current elected officials in Wahkiakum County who have served on that board.

One of the biggest concerns for the SWCAA is fine particulate matter, Executive Director Uri Papish told Wahkiakum County commissioners last week, adding that problems with air quality come on cold winter days with stagnant air conditions.

“That’s when pollution tends to build up,” Papish said.

According to Papish, studies have shown that more than half the fine particulate matter polluting the air is coming from wood burning, wood stoves and fireplaces on those days.

SWCAA has had a wood stove change out program funded by the Washington Department of Ecology since the early 2000s in Vancouver, because of their issues with air quality.

A few years ago, the criteria shifted and other communities could join the program, Papish said. After a few board members from Wahkiakum County, including former Town Council Member Ryan Smith and former Wahkiakum County Commissioner Mike Backman started asking about the program, SWCAA started looking for different funding that would allow the community to participate.

This year they found it and made a one time move of $20,000 of unspent funds from another project into the program.

“It’s not a lot,” Papish wrote in an earlier email, “but it’s what we were able to find to help cover some change outs in Cathlamet.”

“The purpose of the program is to reduce health impacts from wood smoke in at risk communities by helping to fund change outs to alternative heating devices such as electric, gas, or pellet stoves,” Papish said.

While financial aid is available county wide for the wood stove buyback, funding for the fireplace retrofit and wood stove replacement is limited to Cathlamet, and some of the surrounding areas.

Smith, who first joined the board of the SWCAA when he was on the town council nearly six years ago, and remains on the board in an at-large position, was pleased when he learned that people in the area would be able to participate in this program.

“It’s a wonderful program,” Smith said. “I was happy to bring any form of it to the community. If it benefits just one community member, it’s a win.”

“Thanks for being creative on the funding to get the woodstove reduction program in our area,” Wahkiakum County Commissioner Lee Tischer said to Papish following his presentation.

Tischer, along with Town Council Member Robert Stowe currently serve on the SWCAA board with Smith.

For more details and information or to see a map of the areas included in the program, go to



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