Craig Dublanko CCAP, and Joan Brewster Grays Harbor Public Health Department

Craig and Joan discuss campers living on private property along the Chehalis River in Aberdeen. Craig details “where we are now” with the city and the land owner. Joan details concerns for the health of the campers, and what the health department is looking for.

Joan talks about the county money set aside to address homelessness. Craig talks about some of the programs that CCAP has available to help those in need.

Owner given until June 1 to clean up “River Camp” in Aberdeen, campers asked to leave

Time is up for campers living on private property along the Chehalis River in Aberdeen. They are being asked to move out as the property owner works to clean up the site. Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson spoke yesterday with Code Compliance Officer Bill Sidor and owner Michael Lang, they decided that due to the rougher weather and softer ground they would give Lang until the 1st of June before enforcing a recent order to address unsafe conditions on the site. Simpson said the campers need to move along as soon as possible, as the property owner is tasked with the cleanup and has told city officials they do not want campers on the property.

The Code Compliance department last month served notices to vacate to the campers, and contacted property owners about the amount of trash that was piling up on vacant lots along the river.

Mayor Simpson, along with Sidor, and City Attorney Eric Nelson met with campers and advocates on Monday at the site of “River Camp.” Nelson said that even with the property owners approval – which they do not have, the city ordinance would have to change in order to allow camping on the property. “The last time we were down here was seven years ago. So tolerance is something that we have exercised. But we can’t legally permit, we can’t authorize, we can’t allow it because our laws don’t allow us to do that.”

Advocates have been trying to find some common ground – or even just some ground where the campers can live, but without a change to city code their hands are tied.

Natasha - River Camp residentListen to our entire interview with River Camp resident Natasha here.

 

Daytime closures over US 101 Chehalis River Bridge in Aberdeen modified

Drivers will be pleased to hear that previously announced short-duration daytime closures scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, April 15-16 on US 101 across the Chehalis River Bridge have been modified. No maintenance closures will occur on Wednesday, April 15. On Thursday, April 16, Washington State Department of Transportation bridge maintenance crews will close the exit to State Street and the right northbound lane of US 101 across the Chehalis River Bridge from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

These changes are in lieu of multiple daytime closures scheduled to occur each day through Thursday. Bridge crews were able to reduce the number of closures due to faster-than-projected progress on deep-cleaning the bridge’s areas that house moving mechanisms and gears that control openings for marine traffic.

Real-time traffic information is available on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s travel alerts web pages or by calling 5-1-1.

Comments sought on Ecology study addressing oil spills on the Chehalis River

A March 1 study on oil transport in Washington shows significant risks posed by the changing energy picture, and in particular by the growth of crude oil by rail.

In an effort to protect public health and the environment, the Washington Department of Ecology recently completed a draft contingency plan, outlining how responders would tackle an oil spill near the Chehalis River. The plan is available for public review and comment now through May 8, 2015.

The Chehalis River covers almost 120 miles as it winds through Thurston, Lewis and Grays Harbor counties. The draft plan includes 60 strategies meant to reduce damage to sensitive natural, cultural and economic resources during an oil spill.

The plan considers risks from oil trains, an oil pipeline and tanker trucks.  The Olympic Pipeline includes a 25-mile stretch that crosses several tributaries of the Chehalis River, while oil trains travel on tracks that also cross the Chehalis’ tributaries.

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“This plan covers the second-largest watershed in Washington,” said Kathy Taylor, acting program manager for Ecology’s Spill Prevention, Preparedness and Response program. “With the rapid changes in oil transport, particularly with crude by rail, it’s important we have plans in place to protect our precious natural resources.”

The Chehalis River plan is one of eight geographic response plans Ecology aims to complete before June 30, using special funding the Washington Legislature dedicated to help our state prepare for oil spills.

Comments can be emailed to grps@ecy.wa.gov, or mailed to:

Washington Department of Ecology

Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (MLCC-GRP)

P.O. Box 47600

Olympia, WA 98504-7600

Advocates and campers working to cleanup site near downtown Aberdeen

Cleanup continues near the Chehalis River Bridge where several campsites along the river have been getting attention. Sources tell us the City of Aberdeen hauled out more than 20,000 pounds of trash last week. Campers and volunteers were using rakes to pile the trash Monday when we spoke to Natasha. “Although it is a problem, 60 to %70 of it is not the campers, it’s the trucks coming in at 2, 3, and 4 in the morning.” The former postal worker from Pacific Beach has been the unofficial campground host for about 8 months now, she said there’s really not an easy solution for folks that live there “It’s such a wide range of people down here for a wide range of reasons that everybody’s needs, and what’s going to help everybody, is going to be different from person to person.”

To the left is a campsite recently cleaned by Tasha, to the right is the pile of garbage they removed.
To the left is a campsite recently cleaned by Tasha, to the right is the pile of garbage they removed.

Tasha was 10 years into buying her own home, when – as she puts it “life happened and then the next thing you know I’m here.” Now she lives in the big blue tent that’s visible from the Chehalis River Bridge, it has a fireplace and space for guests. She said she spends a lot of her time helping others find food, clothing, or shelter. “And I mean I have plans not to be down here in the long run, but I also have plans to stay down here until everything’s fine.”

The city’s code enforcement officer handed out eviction notices giving the campers until March 31st to move out, that deadline was extended to April 13th after Mayor Bill Simpson spoke with land owners involved.

This area has one of only a few gravel beaches along the Chehalis, with tides bringing the water level almost to the campfire.
This area has one of only a few gravel beaches along the Chehalis, high tides bring the water level almost to the campfire.

Other advocates are working behind the scenes to procure property and come up with a more permanent solution, however Aberdeen’s city ordinance still prohibits camping on private property – with or without the owner’s permission, an issue that has been addressed elsewhere at the city council level.

During our interview, Tasha explained why so many are choosing not to use other resources like the Union Gospel Mission. She also talks about life along the river before getting the recent attention, and what they are hoping for afterward.

Light strips illuminate Chehalis River Bridge in Aberdeen

The new lights are installed on a portion of the Chehalis River Bridge in Aberdeen, and for the first time in years the walking path on the Southeast side of the bridge was lit up overnight.
Crews have been working to install LED Light bars underneath the concrete handrail on the historic structure, but only on the East side of the bridge so far. The city received just under $500-thousand from the state last year for the design and installation.

Lights on the Chehalis River Bridge in Aberdeen

Port of Grays Harbor approves acquisition of Friends Landing and Sterling Landing

The port of Grays Harbor added two parks to it’s list of properties yesterday, approving the deal that accepts Friends Landing and Sterling Landing as a gift. The non-profit that currently owns them asked the commissioners to consider the acquisition in April.
Satsop Business Park Manager Alissa Shay said Sterling Landing comes with something it didn’t have before. “Access to Sterling Landing is provided by a gravel road owned by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The current owners do not have an easement to access their property, but initial discussions with Fish and Wildlife indicate that an easement would likely b granted to the Port so long as we would continue to provide recreational fishing access.” They’ll also have to apply for some access at Friend’s Landing “In terms of the Department of Natural Resources aquatic lease at Friend’s Landing, according to the DNR there is currently not an active lease on the aquatic lands, although one was maintained in the past.”
Shay said that “as-is” the sites could either cost or make the port about 15-thousand per year. Legal Council Art Blauvelt said the Port will add the two properties to it’s comprehensive plan in July before looking at any changes.
Friend’s Landing on the Chehalis River is a 152 acre, handicap accessible recreation area just outside of Montesano, and includes a 32 acre man-made lake, 1.7 miles of paved trail, a boat launch as well as camping facilities.
Sterling Landing on the Wynoochee River is an undeveloped 30-acre site with a gravel boat launch located outside of Montesano.

“The Commissioners and staff are honored that the stewards of these vital waterfront facilities feel the Port of Grays Harbor would be best suited for the long-term management and preservation of these waterfront assets,” stated Port Executive Director Gary Nelson. “The recreational opportunities provided by these sites align well with the Port’s mission of providing public access to our waterfront and promoting tourism for the betterment of the region. My initial thought is they complement our holdings at Satsop Business Park, but like every opportunity that presents itself to the Port, we will carefully analyze how these properties might fit with our mission and our business objectives.”

Friends Landing, a 501(c)(3), has requested the Port of Grays Harbor consider incorporating its 152 acre handicap accessible recreation facility, along with the 30-acre Sterling Landing site on the Wynoochee River, into the Port’s property portfolio.

Founded in 1911, the Port of Grays Harbor is one of Washington State’s oldest port districts and Washington’s only deep-water port located directly on the Pacific Ocean. The Port of Grays Harbor operates 4 deep-water marine terminals, the Westport Marina, Bowerman Airport and numerous industrial and business parks throughout the region. The addition of Satsop Business Park increases the Port’s properties to more than 1,000 acres of industrial properties and an additional 1,300 acres of sustainably managed forestland. Strategically located midway between Seattle and Portland and less than 1 ½ hour from open sea, the Port of Grays Harbor provides businesses a diverse portfolio of facilities. More information on the Port of Grays Harbor’s facilities and operations is available at portofgraysharbor.com.

Quinault Indian Nation urges opposition to oil transport and shipment through Grays Harbor

The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) is adamantly opposed to increased oil train traffic in Grays Harbor County, the construction of new oil terminals, increased oil shipping from the port of Grays Harbor and dredging of the Chehalis River estuary. “We oppose all of these for both economic and environmental reasons,” said Fawn Sharp, QIN President. “We ask the citizens, businesses and agencies from within the county and beyond to stand with us in opposing the intrusion of Big Oil into our region,” she said. “The small number of jobs this dirty industry brings with it are vastly outnumbered by the number of jobs connected with a healthy natural resources and a clean environment,” she said.

Fawn Sharp Quinault Indian Nation President“It is time for people from all walks of life to stand up for their quality of life, their children and their grandchildren. It makes no sense whatsoever to allow Big Oil to invade our region, especially with the volume they are proposing. We all have too much at stake to place ourselves square in the path of this onrushing deluge of pollution, to allow mile-long trains to divide our communities and jeopardize our air, land and waters,” she said.

“Consider the number of jobs that are dependent on health fish and wildlife. The birdlife in Grays Harbor alone attracts thousands of tourists every year. Fishing and clamming attract thousands more. And anyone who listens to Big Oil or their pawns when they tell us how safe the oil trains are, or the ships or even the oil terminals that are being proposed needs to pay closer attention. We have already had large quantities of fish and shellfish stolen from us through development of and damage to Grays Harbor and its tributaries and we are not accepting any more losses. We want restoration, not further damage,” she said.

“Derailments, crashes, spills and explosions are extremely dangerous and they happen with frightening regularity. The fact is that there will be accidents and there will be spills, and they will do extensive damage,” said Sharp.

Sharp said there is another fact of which people must be aware: “If we stand together, speak up and demand to be heard, we can make a difference. Our collective voice empowers us.”

U.S. Development Group is currently seeking permits to build an oil terminal on the Washington coast that could handle about 45,000 barrels of crude oil a day. The $80 million proposal at the Port of Grays Harbor is one of several in Washington that together would bring millions of barrels of oil by train from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana. About 17 million barrels of oil were shipped across Washington State last. That number is expected to triple this year. Grays Harbor is facing three separate crude-by-rail proposals. Westway Terminal Company, Imperium Terminal Services, and U.S. Development Group have each proposed projects that would ship tens of millions of barrels of crude oil through Grays Harbor each year. Daily trains more than a mile long would bring crude oil from North Dakota or tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada along the Chehalis River and into the port, where it would be stored in huge shoreline tanks. The crude would then be pumped onto oil tankers and barges, increasing at least four-fold the large vessel traffic in and out of the harbor.

Westway Terminal Company proposes five new storage tanks of 200,000 barrels each. Westway estimates it will receive 1.25 unit trains per day or 458 trains trips (loaded and unloaded) a year. The company estimates it will add 198-238 oil barge transits of Grays Harbor per year. “The chances are even those counts are very conservative,” said Sharp.

Imperium Terminal Services proposes nine new storage tanks of 80,000 barrels each. With a capacity to receive 78,000 barrels per day, Imperium may ship almost 28.5 million barrels of crude oil per year. Imperium estimates that the terminal would add 730 train trips annually, equaling two, 105-car trains (one loaded with oil on the way in, one empty on the way out) per day. The company estimates 400 ship/barge transits through Grays Harbor per year.

U.S. Development Group submitted its application in this crude-by-rail race early this month. It proposes eight storage tanks each capable of holding over 123,000 barrels of crude oil. The company anticipates receiving one loaded 120 tank car train every two days, and adding 90-120 Panamax-sized vessel transits through Grays Harbor per year.

“We are targeted by Big Oil,” said Sharp. “We will not allow them to turn our region into the greasy mess they have created in other regions. We care about our land and our water. We realize how important our natural resources are to our future and we’re not going to sit by and let them destroy what we have,” said Sharp.

Deborah Hersman, outgoing chair of the National Transportation Safety Board said on April 21 that U.S. communities are not prepared to respond to worst-case accidents involving trains carrying crude oil and ethanol. In her farewell address in Washington DC, she said regulators are behind the curve in addressing the transport of hazardous liquids by rail and that Federal regulations have not been revised to address the 440 percent increase in rail transport of crude oil and other flammables we have experienced since 2005. Hersman, who is leaving her post at NTSB April 25 to serve as president of the National Safety Council, said the petroleum industry and first responders don’t have provisions in place to address a worst-case scenario event involving a train carrying crude oil or ethanol.

Hershman added in her comments that the DOT-111 rail tank cars used to carry crude oil are not safe to carry hazardous liquids. She also said that NTSB is overwhelmed by the number of oil train accidents. At present, she said the NTSB is involved in more than 20 rail accident investigations but only has about 10 rail investigators.

“It makes absolutely no sense for us to allow our communities to be exposed to the same dangers that killed 47 people in Quebec this past summer. That tragedy was not an isolated incident. It could happen here, and there is absolutely no doubt that this increased oil traffic will cost us all in terms of both environmental and long term economic damage,” said Sharp.

“For the sake of our public safety, our long term economy, our streams, wetlands, fishing areas, shellfish beds, and migratory bird habitats, we will stand up to them. The Quinault Nation encourages everyone who cares about the future of our region to participate in the public hearings regarding the Westway and Imperium proposals being conducted at 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday, April 24 at Hoquiam High School and Tuesday, April 29 at Centralia High School. We further encourage letters and calls to the Department of Ecology, to local government and to the Governor. Now is the time for to speak out in support of the future of Grays Harbor and the Pacific Northwest!”

“We strongly encourage people to show up and make comments and submit written testimony at these hearings,” said Sharp. “A good turnout is a must,” she said. Following the hearing, written comments can be sent to Maia Bellon, Director of the Department of Ecology, at 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA 98503-1274.

To join QIN in this effort, please email ProtectOurFuture@Quinault.org. “Together, we can protect the land and the water for our children, and rebuild a sustainable economy,” said Sharp.

Port of Grays Harbor to consider acquisition of Friends Landing and Sterling Landing near Montesano

Aberdeen, Wash. – Popular recreation areas, Friends Landing and Sterling Landing, in eastern Grays Harbor County could soon be the newest waterfront public access facilities managed by the Port of Grays Harbor. At the April Commission meeting, the 501(c)(3) that owns and operates the facilities requested the Port Commissioners consider incorporating the facilities into the Port’s property portfolio. Port Commission President Stan Pinnick requested staff to investigate the properties, review amenities and improvements associated with the sites, analyze the financial implications of the property transfer, and report back to the Commissioners at their May meeting.
Friend’s Landing offers 152 acres of handicap accessible recreation opportunities on the Chehalis River including hiking, fishing, camping and bird watching just outside of Montesano. The site features a 32 acre man-made lake, 1.7 miles of paved trail, a handicap accessible boat launch on the Chehalis River, and RV and tent camping facilities with full hook-up sites.
Sterling Landing is an undeveloped 30-acre site with a gravel boat launch located on the Wynoochee River outside of Montesano.
“The Commissioners and staff are honored that the stewards of these vital waterfront facilities feel the Port of Grays Harbor would be best suited for the long-term management and preservation of these waterfront assets,” stated Port Executive Director Gary Nelson. “The recreational opportunities provided by these sites align well with the Port’s mission of providing public access to our waterfront and promoting tourism for the betterment of the region. My initial thought is they complement our holdings at Satsop Business Park, but like every opportunity that presents itself to the Port, we will carefully analyze how these properties might fit with our mission and our business objectives.”

Friends Landing, a 501(c)(3), has requested the Port of Grays Harbor consider incorporating its 152 acre handicap accessible recreation facility, along with the 30-acre Sterling Landing site on the Wynoochee River, into the Port’s property portfolio.
Friends Landing, a 501(c)(3), has requested the Port of Grays Harbor consider incorporating its 152 acre handicap accessible recreation facility, along with the 30-acre Sterling Landing site on the Wynoochee River, into the Port’s property portfolio.

Port staff will be conducting its due diligence on both of the properties and the many public assets they have to offer. Staff is expected to make a presentation of its initial findings at the May 13th Commission meeting.
Founded in 1911, the Port of Grays Harbor is one of Washington State’s oldest port districts and Washington’s only deep-water port located directly on the Pacific Ocean. The Port of Grays Harbor operates 4 deep-water marine terminals, the Westport Marina, Bowerman Airport and numerous industrial and business parks throughout the region. The addition of Satsop Business Park increases the Port’s properties to more than 1,000 acres of industrial properties and an additional 1,300 acres of sustainably managed forestland. Strategically located midway between Seattle and Portland and less than 1 ½ hour from open sea, the Port of Grays Harbor provides businesses a diverse portfolio of facilities. More information on the Port of Grays Harbor’s facilities and operations is available at portofgraysharbor.com.

Port of Grays Harbor making repairs to trail, road along West Hoquiam property

The Port of Grays Harbor is making repairs to a popular dog walking path in West Hoquiam. Executive Director Gary Nelson said repairs to road near the Anderson/Middleton property will require No Trespassing signs for the time being “The road has severely deteriorated so we’re rebuilding the road which will allow us later to come back through and shore up the dike, which insures the integrity of that site.”

Nelson said new rock will reinforce the road on the south side of the rail, along the Chehalis River “This is kind of a preemptive move, probably a little overdo, but if people see trucks going in and out of there that’s what’s going on.” Nelson expected work on the road to be complete in May, afterwords they plan to shore up their levee along the river.