County officials plan to strenghthen enforcement authority of solid waste ordinance
February 17, 2022
Wahkiakum County commissioners heard a renewed plea for dike repair assistance and agreed to strengthen the county's solid waste ordinance when they met Tuesday.
Maurice Mooers, one of two members of the Diking District 4 board of commissioners, asked county officials to move forward with aiding the financially strapped district to repair failing dikes along Brooks Slough.
The district has few private landowners and limited income; the formation of the US Fish and Wildlife Service national wildlife refuge for white-tail deer removed much of the district tax base, Mooers said.
Mooers said he personally paid for dike work done on his land, but more remains to be done that will deplete district funds.
Commission Chair Gene Strong advised Mooers to develop cost estimates of needed repairs and report back to the board so that county staff could see what they can do.
Commissioner Dan Cothren said refuge personnel should be included in the discussions. He'll be part of a meeting of local conservation agencies in May, and they should be invited to that meeting, he said.
In other business, Strong and Cothren said the county needs to strengthen its solid waste/junk vehicle ordinance because of continuing unresolved problem areas.
Strong said the board should hold a workshop soon on the ordinance, and Cothren said he would bring it up at a coming meeting of the county Real Property Rights Advisory Board, which advises the commission on property rights issues.
"I think it's time to come back to the table and start looking at what revisions we need to make to have some teeth to enforce it," Strong said.
"I have been witnessing this and am disgusted by what some of the stuff that's going on," he said. "Enough is enough!"
There are five problem areas around the county that need attention, Cothren continued. At one, there is often mud and debris left on the road that endanger vehicle travel.
Sheriff Mark Howie and Undersheriff Gary Howell said officers have been working with health department staff on complaints, but the ordinance limits their authority.
"A lot of violations are not criminal," Sheriff Howie said. "(For people ) on their own property, we don't have teeth."
Commissioner Lee Tischer also supported improved enforcement of the ordinance.
"We have a pristine county and we don't want to lose that," he said "We need to move on it."
The county commission adopted the ordinance in January, 2016. In a referendum election the previous fall, approximately 70 percent of voters supported a solid waste/junk vehicle ordinance.
In October, 2019, the commission decided to reconvene the committee that developed the ordinance and work on amendments to strengthen enforcement authority in it. However, the arrival of the covid-19 pandemic in 2020 sidelined that effort as group meetings were curtailed.
For an article about the adoption of the ordinance, see https://www.waheagle.com/story/2016/01/21/news/commissioners-adopt-solid-wastejunk-ordinance/10878.html.