Diking/Enhancement district studies flooding, seeks a new member
January 20, 2022
At the last Grays River Diking and Enhancement District’s meeting on January 12, the board of commissioners had a quorum with two members present: Poul Toftemark and Steve Blaine.
The third member, Brian Livingston, is not available for meetings because he teaches evening classes and does not have the time to serve on the board. Also present at the meeting were county Commissioner Gene Strong, a landowner in the district. Others attending were Susan Amala, a landowner, Laura Brown from the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Ian Sinks from the Columbia Land Trust, representing entities that also own land in the area.
Seal River was discussed in response to the recent flooding. Discussion about the newly proposed project from WDFW regarding removing the floodgate at Seal River was the first topic of the meeting. The amount of floodwater that covered State Route 4 was the highest in recent years, thus closing the highway. If the project were to be developed, one idea has been that the highway would have to be lifted to accommodate the increasing flood heights. Also proposed in the project was the option of building a bridge high enough to keep the highway open.
Don Raistakka, landowner and historian who lives in Seal River, has stated at prior meetings that, “There was a road that ran up above on a higher hill behind our little community. Then the state built it down low. If the Washington State Department of Transportation is going to be a partner in the work studying and planning any lifting of the highway, perhaps they should at least review the placement of the old highway as it was in a higher position than it is now.”
In other areas during the flood the same problems exist. Altoona/Pillar Rock Road was closed due to high water which also caused Barr Road to be blocked on its west end. Loop Road, Barr Road and Covered Bridge Road were closed. Hull Creek was very high and closed the highway.
Many drainage problems came to the community’s attention during the last flood that would be appropriately addressed by the Grays River Diking/Enhancement District if it could find new leadership. The current board consists of temporary volunteers who were appointed to fill in for prior members. They all intend to resign. No landowners have volunteered to serve in these open positions.
Toftemark stated that he has written to the county commissioners asking them to determine what the board’s legal options are if no one comes forward to serve on the board or run for a board position in an election. He also stated he is willing to help anyone who wants to serve on the board. “I am more than willing to help anyone who wants to serve on the board. I will be patient and give them all the time they need. If we can’t have a board, what can we do?”