Jackson Inlet considered for weed control in 2023
May 12, 2022
As the environment of the lower Columbia River region evolves, Wahkiakum County's Noxious Weed Control Program is trying to keep up.
Originally created years ago to control poisonous and similar weeds on agricultural land, the program is now having to focus more and more on aquatic weeds.
On Tuesday, members of the weed board of supervisors and the county board of commissioners heard pleas from Puget Island residents to expand this year's planned herbicide application in Birnie Slough to include Jackson Inlet and small sloughs at the head of the Island.
Residents said weeds have become so thick that they can hardly use their boats, both in Birnie Slough and the inlet, which is a large lagoon between Puget Island and smaller islands along the Cathlamet Channel.
Weed Supervisor Andy Lea told the group that the weed control program is limited by its budget, which is set by the county commission. Last year, the program was able to treat Welcome Slough and the Elochoman Slough Marina. This year, the program focused on Birnie Slough, with the weed board having to seek an increased appropriation to cover costs.
Lea said a rough analysis shows that Jackson Inlet and two connecting sloughs are approximately 787 acres; based on the contractor's cost for Birnie Slough treatment, it would cost approximately $85,000 treat the area.
Discussion covered a variety of topics. Long time Island residents commented that the waters were once much deeper and free of weeds. Weeds have washed down from upriver, speakers said, and dredge spoils deposited at the head of the Island are washing down and raising the bottom of the waters along the Island.
County commissioners acknowledged that the weed program hadn't been adequately supported in the past as county government struggled with weak revenue.
"We're trying to get this program started again," said commission Chair Gene Strong.
The weed control board is set up to direct the program, Commissioner Dan Cothren noted. They direct the program and come to the county commission for appropriations.
Lea commented that the herbicide applications aren't permanent solutions; there needs to be ongoing maintenance.
Former county Commissioner Mike Backman suggested forming a local improvement district in the affected area to help fund weed control.
"Let local people make the decisions," he said.
Strong suggested Lea prepare a more detailed analysis and cost estimate so the project could be included in the weed program's 2023 budget, and the group agreed to follow that course of action.