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News / Clark County News

Port of Camas-Washougal, U.S. Fish and Wildlife mull land swap near Steigerwald refuge

New levee in reconnection project bisects properties near refuge

By Doug Flanagan, Post-Record staff writer
Published: May 27, 2024, 2:12pm
2 Photos
The setback levees constructed during the Steigerwald Reconnection Project kept water from flooding Port of Camas-Washougal property in 2022.
The setback levees constructed during the Steigerwald Reconnection Project kept water from flooding Port of Camas-Washougal property in 2022. (Contributed photo courtesy of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership) Photo Gallery

CAMAS — The Port of Camas-Washougal is negotiating a land-swap transaction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would expand the port’s inventory of usable — and possibly developable — land near Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

The port and Fish and Wildlife started talking about a land swap after realizing that one of the levees constructed during the Steigerwald Reconnection Project in 2021 would divide an area of land near the west end of the refuge. An 18-acre piece of port property is on one side and 11 acres of Fish and Wildlife land lies on the other.

“The levee bisects their property and our property,” port CEO David Ripp said. “The thought is, our property is on their side, and their property is on our side, so we’ll do a swap. … We could have a contiguous piece of property, and they could have a contiguous piece of property.”

The two agencies agreed to postpone talks until the Steigerwald project was completed to see where the property lines would be, according to Ripp.

The port’s 18 acres is valued at $72,000 while the Fish and Wildlife’s 11 acres are valued at $242,000, meaning the port would have to pay the Fish and Wildlife $172,000 to complete the transaction, Ripp said. The port would use funds from its reserve account to pay for the land.

The port has several options if the swap goes through, according to Ripp.

“We would have to do wetland delineation, but there may be a little bit of developable property. Or it could be future mitigation for other projects,” he said at a May 14 port commission meeting. “I think it would benefit us to have that contiguous piece of property. Not that I want to spend the money, but I think this would benefit us in the future.”

Port commissioners agreed with Ripp.

“I always look at things from the economical standpoint of, ‘Where are we now and where are we going?’” Commissioner John Spencer said. “Where we are now is we’ve got totally unusable land, and we have an opportunity for several acres, anyway, of usable land.”

Ripp said that the transaction could be completed within the next two months.

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