County, Corps, Upriver Ports
Local officials and managers of Columbia River dredging operations met Tuesday to discuss issues and concerns for operations along Wahkiakum County shorelines.
The group agreed to look into some issues and get together again in February for further talks.
Participating were representatives of the Upriver Ports Association, the Port of Portland, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Consolidated Diking District No. 1 and Wahkiakum County.
The local officials urged dredging program managers to dispose of sand on eroding beaches as much as possible, and the dredging managers urged county officials to prepare permits and easements so that they could use the sites when needed.
The Corps of Engineers is responsible for maintaining the shipping channel in the Columbia. The Corps contracts with the Port of Portland for dredging; that port operates a pipeline dredge, the Oregon, and hopper dredge.
As a final part of the channel deepening project, the dredge will dump sand on an inland site on Puget Island, probably in 2015, said Sebastian Degens, Port of Portland's general manager of Marine and Terminal Business Development.
The site is farmland belonging to the Philip Vik family on East Sunny Sands Road. The Upriver Ports have already purchased and leased land along the river and inside the dike. The 83-acre site will potentially hold enough sand to fill it 20 feet high.
Degens said Philip Vik has negotiated use conditions that should protect neighbors from adverse impacts.
Jessica Stokke, Corps project manager for the Columbia and Lower Willamette rivers, said there isn't much shoaling along Sunny Sands, so the pipeline dredge will dig a sump nearby on the river bottom, and a hopper dredge will move spoils from shoaling areas to the sump for eventual pumping into the Vik site.
Rob Beringer, Port of Portland's shore superintendent of dredging, said two large pipes will cross Sunny Sands, one carrying the slurry of water and sand into the site and the other carrying water away from the site. The pipes will lie on the road, and they will be covered with a rock fill to allow traffic to pass, and they'll be removed when not used.
Commissioners Dan Cothren and Mike Backman--colleague Blair Brady was unable to attend the meeting--urged the Corps and port to replenish eroding sand on Sunny Sands before using the inland site.
Cothren commented shoreline residents watch dredging operations and don't understand why the sand can't be used on their beaches.
Stokke and Mike Ott, Corps chief of waterways maintenance, said the Corps needs, from Congress, 1. authority to conduct operations and 2. funding for the operations. So if a project is authorized but not funded, they can't undertake the project.
Degens commented that regulatory agencies, which have opposed beach nourishment, are starting to change their minds and see environmental value in it. So, he said, the county could likely have an easier time in getting permits for projects.
Beringer said that dredgers prefer to use beaches as disposal sites because they're easy to access and more cost effective than pumping sand inland. In the 1980's, he added, there were over 70 beach nourishment sites; now, because of environmental concerns, there are only three--Miller Sands, Ostervold Beach, and Skamokawa Vista park.
Laura Hicks, Corps branch chief for project management and planning, urged county officials to renew right-of-entry permits along Sunny Sands and other areas where beach nourishment could occur so that if the opportunity presented itself, all would be ready. Commissioner Backman responded that he would go door-to-door to talk to residents about the rights of entry.
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