Commissioners consider shoreline program administrator


February 16, 2023

Wahkiakum County commissioners considered who would administer the county's Shoreline Master Program and acted on other business when they met Tuesday.

Commissioners also approved a contract with an engineering firm to redesign the intersection of East Valley Road and SR 4 in Skamokawa; they received a report of county Extension Office activities, and they voiced opposition to state proposals to set aside trust timberlands for carbon sequestration.

The shoreline program regulates development and activities along shorelines. The county currently has submitted a proposed update of the county plan to the state Department of Ecology to see if it meets state codes. The update was started by the county planning commission which worked with consultant, CREST. Subsequently, commissioners authorized the Wahkiakum County Real Property Rights Advisory Board to edit that proposal, which was submitted to Ecology.

Normally, administration of the shoreline program is conducted by staff of the county public works department, but on Tuesday, Commissioner Dan Cothren reported that the advisory committee has suggested that one of its members, Chuck Hendrickson, would be interested in handling program administration.

Several factors support the idea, Cothren said. Public works department staff are already very busy, and "These guys wrote the program," he said. Also, many county residents see CREST as the rule maker, and an administrator from the property rights advisory committee would be seen as independent.

Public Works Department Director Chuck Beyer raised some points to consider.

"These guys will want to go out and do enforcement?" he asked. "Are we going to keep CREST on? They do reviews of projects and provide technical support. The person would have to be an employee."

Cothren replied that the person would likely want to be a contractor.

"There might be union issues with that," Beyer said.

The board took no action but agreed they want to discuss the proposal with real property rights advisory committee members.

Commissioners approved a $228,991 contract with an engineering firm to redesign the East Valley Road intersection with SR 4. The county road meets the highway at an angle, and it's difficult for drivers to see traffic to the west because of the acute angle of the intersection.

"If you're making the turn to go westbound, you can't stay in your lane," commented Commissioner Gene Strong.

The design work should be finished in the fall.

Cooperative Extension Agent Carrie Backman reported on the variety of programs that run through her office.

--The county Marine Resources Committee helped fund several projects, including improvements to walkways at County Line Park, upgrade of the Cathlamet town dock and outdoor classroom projects in schools.

--Working in the community garden in Cathlamet, WSU Master Gardeners volunteered over 1,200 hours and raised 1,500 lbs. of food for community use.

--Volunteers in the 4-H youth program has sponsored career exploration presentations and robotics programs in grades K-12 in schools.

--Volunteers have also sponsored training in schools for electronics and programing.

Commissioners agreed they would support lobbying to delay action on two bills in the state legislature that would establish carbon sequestration and ecosystem protection on timber trust lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Officials are concerned that the program would prohibit logging on county trust timber lands managed by the DNR.

"It's not a good thing," Cothren commented. "The lands would be locked up for 40 years."

"If you lock up timber, you lock up jobs," said commission Chair Lee Tischer.

"It impacts everybody at every level," Strong said.

Tischer said he would participate in a county timber caucus meeting on Wednesday, and state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz would be a speaker.

"It should be an interesting meeting," he said.

According to a DNR news release, under the legislation, the DNR would be able to sell carbon credits on the open market as many private industries already do. This would enable DNR to provide Washington-based carbon credits for the cap-and-invest program created under the Climate Commitment Act.

The DNR would receive 27 percent of lease proceeds; the remaining balance would go to counties in which the timberlands are found.


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