Citizens speak out against river buyout; county to proceed with grant application anyway
by Sue Forde, Citizen
Clallam County, WA -May 21, 2002 – Citizens from
the Kinkade Island area showed up at the May 21, 2002 meeting to testify
against a planned buyout by the county of property there with grant
money. Clallam County plans
to submit for a grant from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
for the purpose of buying up private property and placing it into county
ownership to get the people “out of harm’s way” according to DCD
[Department of Community Development] director Bob Martin and County
Commissioner Steve Tharinger.
Homeowner Steve Muller was the first to testify.
His home is barricaded at his own expense with sandbags along the
waterway that was once Kinkade Creek, and has now turned into a large
portion of the Dungeness River. He stated that he is opposed to the
buyout proposals. He said
that the newspapers had printed “misinformation”, and that there
were contradictions made in statements by Bob Martin.
He talked about the sediment problem in the
Dungeness River. Dredging
in some areas may be beneficial, but that’s not the cause of what’s
going on in the river, he said. He
pointed to one of the dikes as the problem in restricting the river and
creating a backflow, allowing a large amount of sediment to build up.
The result is a diversion of the river into Kinkade Creek,
causing problems of flooding to the landowners there.
He has investigated the costs for a barrier to be
erected to protect Kinkade Island.
He said the department of fisheries quoted approximately $8,000
to create a barrier, which reduces the risk of people on the island.
Removal of material in the middle of the river would have a dual
purpose…it would create fish habitat, and removal of the gravel from
the middle of the river would allow the river to flush itself. Removal of the dike would remove flood hazards, he added.
Diane Hood, another river property owner, spoke
about dredging the river having been successful in the past for flood
prevention. When river is
allowed to meander, many fish eggs dry up.
Gravel bars also cause problems with erosion of the river.
She has spoken to the Army Corps of Engineers and West
Construction, (who had done a $30,000 study), and was told that several
rivers have been dredged successfully, including the Columbia, Chehalis,
and the Cedar. They
cost-share with some federal funds involved.
Bob Martin started that if they put in a logjam and it blew out, it would be catastrophic, Hood stated. I say that we would be exactly where we are now. “At the last meeting, it was also stated that 80% of the owners were interested in selling,” she continued. “I would like to know who they are. I believe that a couple of owners on the island, and some that cannot get a permit are willing to sell. On Cathy Lear’s [Lear is the county natural resources person and is also involved with the local land trust] chart of willing sellers, I and neighbors I knew who had no interest in selling were marked in as “willing sellers,” which I informed her was misrepresentation,” she said.
We need preventive measures now to protect against
the next flood, to protect lives and prevent greater costs, she said.
“I find it very discriminatory that flood prevention work is
being done immediately for some people, and the City of Sequim and the
Highland Irrigation, to protect their interests.
What price is too high today to protect life and home?”
Steve Tharinger said it would cost $250,000 to do
the work. She said she got
a quote of $20,000 from George Dickerson to block the channel with woody
debris and from $30,000 to $50,000 to channelize the river by diverting
the pile of rocks and diverting the channel back into the main river
where it belongs. “It
seems a lot less expensive than buying out our homes.
Remember, 27 homeowners signed a petition saying this is what
“ I would also like to know who made the decision
not to close the channel. Was
it Bob Martin? Or was there a vote?
If so, who voted against and who in favor?”
I feel you’re using us as guinea pigs, she exclaimed.
She said she attended a meeting Friday night with Randy Johnson
from the state fisheries on the river.
“It seems that every few years, you want to apply for more
grants to do more studies to try something new,” when procedures being
used elsewhere seem to work.
Jim Connel, who lost much of his land, and has not
been allowed to move back into his home on the river, said he still has
lots of questions. “I
really like my place,” he said. “It’s
home.” He was forced to
move out because of the flood danger, and to date, cannot move back in. “I’ve lived there 20 years,” he said. The only letters he gets are from Bob Martin’s office.
“I don’t know what’s going on….there’s got to be
another way other than to buy property with funds you haven’t even
Martin responded that he “certainly understands
Mr. Connel’s concern.” If
we don’t get the grant, he said, people will continue to be in
harm’s way, disregarding the ideas the river owners had put forth.
There isn’t money available to do these things,” he said,
referring to keeping the property from flooding in the future. He agreed
that placing large woody debris is to “sort of protect”, and that
it’s a permissible action, but the county is not in a position to do
it. He wondered if it is
“worth our while to apply for the funding.”
Commissioner Steve Tharinger said that certainly
the property owners have the option of placing large woody debris to
protect their homes. They
would have to get a hydraulic permit from the state fish and wildlife
service, he said. Whether
it’s River’s End or Kinkade, we as commissioners have to be
concerned down the road, he stated.
We’re “not preventing you from taking action.
We’re not going to do that because that wouldn’t be
effective,” he said. “We
feel the long term for the risk is to purchase the property to get them
out of harm’s way forever,” he added.
“I’m not convinced we ought to pursue it,” he said about
the grant. We have to ask
what is the “best way to manage risk,” he said.
He explained that the $250,000 he quoted was to build a structure
to withstand the formidable river, including years down the road.
Commissioner Mike Doherty gave the citizens a
lecture about how they can’t expect the government to take care of
their problems any more, “if people insist on living in a flood plain,
they’re going to have to pay more of their own way, because the
government is no longer subsidizing
as they did for years and years…subsidizing those who are
living in a floodplain. They’re
not doing that anymore.” Muller
corrected Doherty that they do not live in a floodplain.
“It’s a matter of definition,” Doherty responded.
Muller continued that according to flood insurance requirements,
his property is not rated in a floodplain. Doherty cut Muller off,
telling him he could meet with Tharinger or Martin after the meeting.
Muller asked if they got an application from
fisheries, would they have a problem getting an okay from the county.
Cathy Lear from the county natural resources
department came forward and pointed out that the people couldn’t get
permits with three endangered species – they would have to go through
NMFS and National Fish & Wildlife.
Lear stated there were “other public comments” from people that
are in favor of the buyout grant. (None
were present, and this writer will see about obtaining any written
comments from those purported people.) (On
checking with the county commissioners' office later, however, we
learned that there have been no other public testimony, especially any
given in favor of the buyout. - Ed)
(On checking with the county commissioners' office later, however, we learned that there have been no other public testimony, especially any given in favor of the buyout. - Ed)
Lear produced a map, which it appeared the
commissioners were viewing for the first time.
It purportedly set out which properties had owners who indicated
a “willingness” to sell. Hood
and Muller asked if they could see the map; they were told they could
see it later after the meeting, and that they could make further public
comments at that time. As
Lear explained the map to the commissioners, Commissioner Mike Chapman
called two of the three river owners up to the front to see it.
Diane asked again about who made the decision not
to close the channel. Martin
said he didn’t understand. Tharinger
said the county wasn’t going to do that.
“It’s your choice,” he said, “if you want to close the
channel…get a permit from fish & wildlife.”
saying we can do it if we get permits.”
The buildup in the middle of the river would have to be dredged.
She talked about a neighbor who had dredged, and other owner who
had done the same. “It
lasted a long time.” Permits
were issued in the last three years for dredging, she said.
Tharinger said the ESA has “raised the bar”
about dredging. The
river’s velocity would be increased by dredging, he said.
“It would just be putting the river where it was
before,” Diane responded. “All
counties need a hazard management plan by November 2003…I feel this is
a really important issue, and I hope you’re working on this one.”
Tharinger talked about living on the river since
1983 – this year the river rose almost to the top of the dike. “One of the issues I’ll be dealing with is they’re
talking about moving that dike back…that river’s constricted…it
scours out the habitat….if they move that facility back, I’ll need
to move….I’ve lived there for 20 years,” he said.
“There are certain forces out there that you’ll want, need to
realize, and base your decisions on,” he said.
we have here is more than a “meander”, she said.
If we let the river go wherever it wants to go, there has to be a
point where you control it. What
if it heads for downtown Sequim, are you going to let it go?
Doherty called for a motion to close the hearing,
and refer comments to the Department of Community Development. They will be pursuing this further.
Chapman raised the question about whether this
would be only for “willing sellers.”
The others nodded “yes”, which response did not get recorded.
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