Commissioners okay two part-time deputies
July 28, 2022
Wahkiakum County commissioners breezed through their meeting Tuesday, rolling over a light agenda and spending time discussing trust timberland management issues.
Commissioners signed a public assistance grant agreement with the Washington State Military Department that will steer federal disaster response funding to the county to cover damage and expenses resulting from the heavy winter storms in December 2021 and January, 2022.
The board approved a letter of support for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe's grant application to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to help finance a stream bank restoration project on the upper Gray's River and its Johnson and Cabin creek tributaries.
"I've been up to look at some of their projects," commented board Chair Gene Strong. "They're doing a great job up there."
The board also approved a request from Sheriff Mark Howie to hire two reserve deputies as part-time regular deputies. Both have police academy certification. Howie said the department recently lost a deputy who moved to the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Department; another is on maternity leave and will have a subsequent military leave, he said.
During reports, Commissioner Dan Cothren updated his colleagues on progress by the group working to pass legislation that would help Wahkiakum, Pacific and Skamania counties increase their harvestable timberlands.
The group, which includes representatives of the counties, Columbia Land Trust, and Forest Resources Council, met Monday to strategize for the 2023 legislative session and to consider hiring a forestry consultant to represent them.
Cothren also commented that a July 21 state Supreme Court decision on a suit over the state Department of Natural Resources's authority to manage state trust timberlands was beneficial for the county's trust timberlands.
The DNR manages timber for eight trusts whose beneficiaries include counties, universities, schools, state buildings, and institutions such as prisons. The court ruled that the agency could adjust management goals to include environmental and recreational uses as well as traditional generation of revenue for some of the trusts.
The court left intact a decades-old lower court decision that held that county trusts should be managed for financial benefit of the counties, Cothren said. Wahkiakum County expects to receive $1.7 million this year from trust timber harvest.