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Shelton Mason County Journal
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March 13, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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March 13, 2014

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Page A-2 - Mason County Journal - Thursday, March 13, 2014 Army Corps debtlts $41M plan for Skokomish River By NATALIE JOHNSON natalie@masoncoun com Some Skokomish Val- ley residents are con- cerned that a proposed Army Corps of Engineers project will do more harm than good to farmers and landowners struggling with flooding. "We will be living in a swamp -- this com- munity is going to be destroyed," said Jayni Kamin, a former Mason County commissioner. Kamin said the proj- ect, which includes re- moving levees and re- connecting side channels of the Skokomish River, will reduce the large farms of the valley to "hobby farms." "This work that's be- ing proposed is probably not going to bring agri- culture back to the Skok," said Mason County Com- missioner Terri Jeffreys. Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mason County, Mason Conser- vation District and the Skokomish Tribe met with Skokomish Valley residents March 4 at the Skokomish Grange to discuss the Army Corp's General Investigation study on Skokomish Riv- er Basin Ecosystem Res- toration. The groups have worked together since 2000 to research flooding and ecosystem restora- tion projects. The study was put on hold in 2002 and restarted in 2006. OREST A Reputation Built on Service Complete Direct Cremation $555 0 Call (360) 427-8044 Journal photo by Gordon Weeks This house on the Skokomish River, next to U.S. Highway 101, experienced flooding March 6, on a day the state issued a flood watch for Mason County. In November, the Army Corps released a "tentatively selected plan" outlining $41 mil- lion in ecosystem resto- ration projects over 330 acres of the Skokomish Valley. The cost of the project would be shared among the federal gov- ernment, and local part- ners Mason County and the Skokomish Tribe. Mason County plans to use state grants to cover its portion of the cost. The Army Corps also recently released a draft feasibility report for the project and an environ- mental impact state- ment. The plan would ad- dress ecosystem restora- tion in the Skokomish Valley, but does not di- rectly address flood con- trol. "We know that flood- ing is a problem -- it's a major concern," said Ra- chel Mesko, lead planner on the project with the Army Corps. The Army Corps chose to pursue an ecosystem restoration, rather than a flood risk management project, because, accord- ing to the Army Corps, the benefits of building a flood risk management project do not outweigh the costs of that project. "The economic bene- fits (or damages avoided) of a potential flood risk management project do not adequately offset the expected costs to warrant a federal flood risk man- agement project," accord- ing to the Army Corps. "Based on these develop- ments, the sponsors and study team have agreed to continue to pursue a single-purpose (ecosys- tem restoration) General Investigation study." During the study, the Army Corps identified two possible options for ecosystem restoration in the valley: dredging the main stem of the Skokomish River and re- moving a levee near the confluence of the north and south forks of the river. "What we're seeing and what you're seeing is a river full of sediment," Mesko said. The Army Corps' ten- tative plan includes re- moving the levee, rather than dredging. Along with removing the levee, the Army Corps would complete seven smaller projects, including in- stalling large woody de- bris, reconnecting side channels of the river and removing sediment in Hunter and Weaver creeks and two levee set- backs. "It's not just a single project. It's sort of an ar- ray of projects," Mesko said. Rich Geiger, an engi- neer with Mason Conser- vation District, which is also working on the proj- ect, said these projects will improve fish habitat. "So far as fish are con- cerned this is tremen- dous habitat," he said. Geiger said existing levees in the Skokomish Valley are not built cor- rectly, and therefore are not functioning as they should. "The existing levees would be breached so floodwater can flow at a lower elevation ... allow- ing the floodwater to ex- pand and giving the fish hopefully more time in the water than folks' pas- tures," he said. Joseph Pavel, natu- ral resources director for the Skokomish Tribe, said similar ecosystem restoration projects have reduced flooding in the Skokomish Estuary. "Basically the issues that exacerbate the flood- ing are the same condi- tions that are impacting our ecosystem nega- tively," he said. "I think we've seen removing those types of construc- tion (dikes and levees) ... overall it increases the functionality of the river." However, many valley residents in attendance said they preferred the dredging option, say- ing removing levees will make it harder to farm and live in the valley. While the levee remov- al and associated projects would cost $41 million, Mesko said dredging 5 to 9 miles of the Skokomish River could cost $100 to $200 million. "The inexpensive part is getting it out of the river," Mesko said. "The expensive part is getting it out of the valley." Mesko said the river would have to be re- dredged every 10 to 20 years. Some members of the audience questioned the Army Corps's estimated cost for dredging. "I think you're nuts. I think you've lost track," said valley resident Art Tozier. 'You don't say anything about the hu- man relations or the people who live out of the Skokomish Valley." Valley residents urged the Army Corps to de- velop a plan that would preserve farms impacted by flooding. "It's all mismanage- ment by the govern- ment," said Bill Hunter Sr. 'e didn't destroy this Valley - the river's destroying it." Members of the pub- lic can view the plan at http://tinyurl.com/SkokGI and can submit formal comments until April 7 to Skokomish@usace.army. mil or to Nancy Gleason, U.S. Army Corps of En- gineers, CENWS-EN-ER, P.O. Box 3755, Seattle, WA, 98124. AfLer the public com- ment period is closed, Army Corps staff will incorporate public com- ments into the feasibility report and develop more detailed designs. Con- struction on the project could begin as early as 2017, pending approval of the plan and the avail- ability of funding. The next information- al meeting on the project is scheduled for March 20 at the Mason County Public Works building at 100 W. Public Works Drive. An open house is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., with a presenta- tion from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and a question and answer period from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.