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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Herrera Beutler presses administration for river study funds

By Andre Stepankowsky, The Daily News
Published: August 7, 2020, 9:03am

LONGVIEW — Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler has written to the Trump administration to press for money to monitor the Cowlitz River and raise the sediment-retaining dam on the North Fork of the Toutle River.

The Clark County Republican sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget Wednesday supporting a request to “reprogram” funds to survey silt buildup in the Cowlitz and raise the dam’s spillway.

Otherwise, local communities will have to pay for monitoring of the river, as they did last year when they pitched in $120,000, Herrera Beutler said.

“Without federal funding this year for the necessary sediment monitoring and predesign work for the raising of the (sediment retaining dam), these local communities will again be forced to put up local dollars to cover for what is supposedly a federal commitment. In any typical year, finding funding for these activities is difficult at best, and the COVID-19 related effects on county and local government revenues this year will make it nearly impossible,” Herrera Beutler wrote.

“Counties and towns should not be forced to divert funds from other vital community services to make up for the lack of consistent federal support for sediment monitoring and SRS improvements,” Herrera Beutler added.

The letter was addressed to OMB director Russell T. Vought.

The Trump Administration has consistently declined to request money to survey the river or design the spillway raise for the sediment dam, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built in the 1980s to check the flow of volcanic silt into the Cowlitz River. The Corps’ Portland District has asked the Secretary of the Army and OMB to shift funds from other projects — a process called “reprogramming” — to survey the river and start the design work.

If allowed to build up in the river channel, the silt would increase the risk of flooding in Castle Rock, Lexington, Kelso and Longview, federal engineers and hydrologists say. The dam needs to be raised to restore its silt-trapping capacity.

“Failing to address the risk to impacted communities not only threatens them with the uncertainty of flooding but fails to give them the peace of mind that the monitoring can provide. I ask that you approve the USACE reprogramming request to ensure these communities can be properly protected,” Herrera Beutler wrote.