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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Columns

Local View: Cooperative alliance for lake

By Ken Imse
Published: June 29, 2024, 6:01am

The Columbian’s June 25 editorial (“Coordination crucial for Vancouver Lake’s future”) hit the key issue: Coordination among the primary stakeholders — Clark County, the city of Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver and, importantly, the Cowlitz Tribe, which was here in the beginning and is a valuable community partner.

The state Departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources must be involved but local governments, with the continuing support of our state and federal legislators, must take the lead.

All four stakeholders will benefit from this unified approach — an approach which the Friends of Vancouver Lake has seen work before and fully supports.

The Vancouver Lake Partnership in the early 2000s was a positive step. It built on the federal government’s flushing channel construction and dredging, and produced many valuable studies and a community consensus that Vancouver Lake is worth saving.

The partnership failed when it came to the question of who would take the lead. Reasonable and legitimate concerns were raised that the lake’s financial needs would be a bottomless pit that no one government could accept.

Now it is time for a new approach. A cooperative alliance that will not commit any local shareholder to anything that they do not already do but rather looks for state and federal grants to clean up Vancouver Lake.

Each stakeholder should ask their government relations staff to add Vancouver Lake to their priority list. And when a grant is found, bring it to the governments to answer key questions:

1. Is it worth pursuing?

2. What would be the local responsibility?

3. Would there be manageable maintenance costs? Assuming agreement, and the grant is approved, a separate body will be needed to manage it and any subsequent grants.

This approach brings local governments together, working cooperatively, without any one government assuming financial responsibility.

Saving Vancouver Lake is a government responsibility and a legacy project. Friends of Vancouver Lake is an activist group which was formed to support local governments in this effort and we will continue to work with the stakeholders to ensure it happens.

Ken Imse is board chair of Friends of Vancouver Lake, an organization dedicated to restoring the lake.