Senator Cantwell hears local issues

By:  Diana Zimmerman
Source: The Wahkiakum County Eagle

Several local officials attended a roundtable discussion with Senator Maria Cantwell last Wednesday in Cathlamet.

The senator listened carefully, taking notes as each person at the table took a turn to speak about the issues confronting their departments, whether it was infrastructure, tourism, a housing shortage or mental health issues.

Port 1 Commissioner Bob Kizziar mentioned the eroding beaches on Puget Island and the need for dredging in the marina and elsewhere.

"I remember that the Corps of Engineers were saying that they would charge the citizens $30 a yard to put sand on their beach, when their beaches are eroding away thanks to what the Corps of Engineers have done in the river, Kizziar said. Our marina is silting in, because of what is happening upstream and what is happening out in the river. if I did any of that as a private citizen, I would be in trouble, but it seems to me that the government is doing it or allowing it to be done and they are not in trouble and they are not paying for it."

"There are 520 in town, in a small county," he added. "I don't think there is anyone in southwest Washington that doesn't feel like we're stepchildren."

County Commissioner Dan Cothren chimed in.

"It's a fact," Cothren said, "Wahkiakum County being small; we're dumped on by the urban settings. They get funded for different things. We're getting compounded by it. Putting sand at the head of the island is causing some of the problems down at the port. When they put the sand at the head of the island; the flush of the water pushes it into this channel here. This side is getting silted in. The port district is trying to deal with it, but they didn't create the problem. It's basically industries that are benefitting from it while we're getting the brunt of it.

"We're getting to be a dumping site for other folks and other communities," he continued. "They benefit, we don't benefit. Because with this upriver stuff with channel deepening and upriver ports gaining all the revenue, we get nothing out of this but eroding beaches. Port districts are scrapping for every little dime just to survive. These are huge issues."

Cantwell responded to many of the issues but decided to turn her focus to the issues that Kizziar and Cothren, and Kayrene Gilbertsen of Port 2 spoke about.

Wahkiakum PUD Commissioners Gene Healy, left, and Dennis Reid talk to the senator. Town Councilman David Goodroe on the right.

"I get madder than heck that we bailed out Wall Street and we didn't take care of other people who lost their pensions," Senator Cantwell said. "When you talk about the fact that these large shippers have been able to have the river dredged and then are going to put the dredging up on the middle part of the island and yet you can't get sand or resources to help with stabilization or to help with the silt debris in the marina channel, it must be beyond frustrating.

"Target number one ought to be both of those issues," Cantwell said, "The issue is having a river plan that works for everyone. We are spending federal dollars out here for that, so the plan should work for everyone. It sounds to me like what we need to do is get the Corps of Engineers in a room. I'm happy to do that, I'm happy to show up. Let's make priority number one trying to figure out how to get this stabilization and marina issue resolved with the Corps of Engineers."