GRHED's heated first meeting
October 20, 2022
The newly organized Board of the Grays River Habitat Enhancement District met on Thursday, April 13 at Johnson Park with 16 in attendance. The county commissioners chose three of the five who applied to be on the board after all the prior board members resigned. The new board consists of Andrea Vincent, Don Dyer and Judy Johnson. All three are well qualified. Andrea Vincent was ill, so she was not present. Judy Johnson ran the meeting, but the decisions regarding officers has not yet been decided. Gene Strong, county commissioner and landowner in the district, attended. Poul Toftemark and Krist Novoselic, both former board members, were in attendance. All attendees are landowners.
One of the first agenda items was the announcement of a change of the monthly meeting date. As of November, the meetings will still be the second week of the month at Johnson Park, but will now be set on Wednesdays at 5:30 instead of 5:15. The next meeting will be on November 9.
Judy invited everyone to introduce themselves, then discussions began regarding specific issues. The need for work to be done for Susan Amala of Seal River was one of the items discussed and it will be discussed further at the next meeting. Since it does not involve anything in the river, no permits are needed. It was identified as a repair for her breached dike.
The item with the most discussion was the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP). Because the enhancement board has barely functioned for the past few years, there was little awareness of the current official review of the plan and questions came up repeatedly regarding the Department of Ecology’s role in it. The information that the review had already begun and even submitted to the state was a surprise to many at the meeting. Several were concerned about the impression that the west end of the county is not always fully informed about work being done on behalf of the whole county area or population. Further, the meetings are usually in Cathlamet, and few meetings, including county commissioner meetings, are held on the west end. Another factor is that the ads placed in The Eagle newspaper were under the Planning Commission as the lead heading. The actual SMP meeting announcement was all the way down the notice, so few saw it. Public announcement ads in the paper are usually on one page and that means everyone must read them all to be fully informed. That is the work of the reader, not The Eagle, so another ad for the SMP meetings or a press release would have helped residents understand what was being done.
Another meeting is planned for October 27 at 6 p.m. at the county courthouse in the 3rd floor meeting room. All landowners who want their questions answered or who have concerns about their own property, are encouraged to attend. One of the main questions of the group concerned setbacks and any changes to those regulations, as well as information on grandfathered rights for current landowners. This meeting was heated with a great deal of frustration and resentment because there was not much effort made to contact landowners. The impression of the group was that all the agencies involved were more important to the process than the actual landowners who live here and steward their land.