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Wahkiakum County Ready to Send Dredging Easements this Week

Posted on September 19, 2016

By Rick Nelson, The Wahkiakum County

County officials are ready to take the next step in getting four waterfront areas qualified as US Army Corps of Engineers dredge spoils disposal sites.

The board of commissioners on Tuesday cleared the final hurdle to sending letters to property owners requesting their approval of access easements so dredge crews can work on their shorelines during the spoils disposal process.

Commissioners and property owners in areas experiencing significant Columbia River shoreline erosion have been waiting over a year for the Corps to update its right-of-entry form for easements for dredging crews. The county received the final form last week and is preparing to send them, with an explanatory cover letter, by registered mail to affected property owners.

There was, however, a surprise for county officials: There will be a $70 fee for filing each of the easements.

“The only thing that jumped up was another surprise fee, a filing fee of $70,” said board Chair Blair Brady.

Commissioners discussed the issues and agreed they felt it was unfair to impose the fee up front because they had also established an assessment on the eroding properties, which are part of four formally established “flood control zone districts (FCZD).”

Commissioner Dan Cothren suggested the county use money from their Flood Control Fund to cover the filing fees and use funds from the assessments to repay the funds in the future. The board passed a motion to implement the process.

The county hopes to mail the letters this week. The easement signatures must be witnessed by a notary public, and residents of the Cape Horn area are planning a gathering next week to have a notary on hand for their signatures.

Once easements are collected and permits are approved, the sites will be ready for beach nourishment. When that occurs depends on how much sand is filling in the shipping channel.

In a Monday email, Dena Horton, the Southwest Washington Outreach Director for US Senator Maria Cantwell, told county officials what she had learned from recent conversations with Corps officials.

“Following the successful gathering of the individual right of entry permits, ferry channel study, and JARPA application by the county, the Puget Island and Cape Horn areas should be viewed as potential dredge material disposal sites by the Corps,” Horton said in the email. “From what I understood from my conversations with some of the upriver ports is that there is some movement to eventually try to get the Puget Island and Cape Horn areas designated as disposal sites for the Columbia River Channel Maintenance project.

“They are currently working on designating the Vik property as a disposal site while the county simultaneously works through getting the shoreline designated too. It is hoped that both the shoreline and upland sites could be used at approximately the same time.”

A coalition of upriver ports has sponsored the channel deepening project and several years ago went through a process to identify disposal sites. If the county’s FCZDs were added to the previously approved sites, the ports would be responsible for permitting and other costs, officials say. Until then, the responsibility falls to the county and the FCZDs.

“On the positive side, the upriver ports are highly sympathetic to the Wahkiakum County concerns and budget and do see the advantage in having both the upland and shoreline disposal sites available for use to maintain the channel and create a community benefit too,” Horton said.

Source: The Wahkiakum County

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