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News / Clark County News

Unexpected find delays work on Port of Camas-Washougal project

10K cubic yards of buried wood chips must be removed

By Doug Flanagan, Post-Record staff writer
Published: July 6, 2024, 6:02am

WASHOUGAL — Portland-based RKm Development is ready to put shovels in the ground on the Hyas Point mixed-use development on the Washougal waterfront.

The Port of Camas-Washougal has to deal with an unexpected situation first, however. The port must remove 10,000 cubic yards of buried organic material dating back decades from the development site.

“That’s basically our last hurdle before development can start on the property,” Port Commissioner John Spencer said during a commission meeting June 18. “We’re champing at the bit to have this done, and very, very excited.”

The material — mainly wood chips — was buried by employees at Hambleton’s Lumber sawmill, which closed in 2010, after the port purchased the property.

“They’d have wood chips left over from cutting logs, and they didn’t haul them off,” Port CEO David Ripp said. “They just pushed them over in a pile, put them in a hole, filled the hole in with dirt, and let them decay and rot.”

Ripp said the material has been there for up to 50 years. Structures cannot be built on top of the organic material, he said. The material isn’t dangerous and the area is free of contamination.

“When that woody material rots and decays, the ground will shift, and you don’t have a solid base,” Ripp said. “We’re going to have huge buildings, and when that wood rots, combined with the weight of the buildings, the ground will start to settle, and it could be structurally damaging to the building.”

RKm discovered the organic material in 2023 under the future location of the development’s Building B, Ripp said.

The port received a $2 million grant from Washington to pay for the removal project.

Port commissioners approved a $907,971 contract with Swofford Excavating of Washougal to remove the material.

Swofford will begin workMonday. The contract calls for the work to be complete in 45 days, but Ripp said he anticipates it will be done faster, allowing RKm to begin work on the waterfront mixed-use development in August.

The initial phase, consisting of four buildings with 56,100 square feet of commercial and retail space and 308,200 square feet of residential space, will feature ground-floor shops and eateries with a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments on the upper floors.

Editor’s note: Swofford Excavating of Washougal will do the excavation work at the Port of Camas-Washougal. An earlier version misspelled the company name.