ILWACO — The City of Ilwaco may have more recreational land soon, thanks to two city projects. One east of the city near Chinook envisions expanding a community-owned forest.

The city is working on purchasing property at Black Lake and the Indian Creek Watershed, where Ilwaco obtains its drinking water. The two projects were focuses of Ilwaco City Council’s April 8 meeting.

Additional topics discussed by the council included city recreational land purchases, an emergency services board and wastewater treatment.

Forestry project update

Councilor Matt Lessnau presented an update on the city’s work within the Indian Creek Watershed. In 2015, the city declared through its watershed protection plan that the city wanted to purchase the remaining land and unharvested timber within the watershed.

The city has “tentatively” been awarded a $3.6 million loan from the Department of Ecology, Lessnau said. The loan can be used for land acquisition and planning services.

Indian Creek Watershed

The city of Ilwaco is looking into expanding ownership of forest near Chinook where it obtains its potable water supply. The center area shown in green is owned by the city. The orange area is owned by the Hawaii public employees pension system and that shaded violet is owned by Longview Timberlands LLC.

Ilwaco’s watershed is located north of Fort Columbia State Park. The surrounding forest is mostly owned by the Employees’ Retirement System of the State of Hawaii and by Longview Timberlands LLC.

“We need more money,” Lessnau said. “That $3.6 million is just going to get us to the table.”

The city has identified an additional funding source but the city’s watershed project would need to be altered to create a community forest, Lessnau said. Creating the forest would allow for more funding options.

The city wants to purchase the watershed land to secure its health and productivity; create a sustainable revenue source for the city; and investigate the potential for added regional recreation.

Wastewater plant feasibility study

Councilors approved a study for the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The study will determine whether the plant can accept commercial septage.

The study is happening because Pacific County’s current septage system is changing. The county’s commercial business waste was handled by Evergreen Septic and the City of Warrenton.

Through the contract, sewage was dumped in Warrenton at a receiving station. In February 2019, Warrenton ended the contract with Evergreen Septic because the station was receiving increased amounts of fats oils and grease. Because of the change, the City of Ilwaco, City of Long Beach, Seaview Sewer District and the Pacific County Commissioners need to come up with a septage solution.

Ilwaco and Long Beach have taken the stance of not being willing to take on the septage problem, leaving it for the county to figure out, said Mayor Gary Forner.

“This isn’t as easy as ‘Yeah, let’s pump it into our system,’” Lessnau said, noting Warrenton’s problems with the wastewater. “In my opinion, this would have to be of immense value to the citizens of Ilwaco to make it worthwhile.”

Longview or the Centralia area may be possible locations for the sewage to go to, Forner said. This would likely increase the price Ilwaco residents pay for water and sewer, he said.

The study could cost about $20,000, according to the city. The council’s approval of the study will cost the city $200 from its wastewater fund.

“Why would I let the county pay $20,000 to do something that’s not feasible?” said Councilor Kristen Mathison. “Or is this just checking a box for $20,000?”

Black Lake Land Acquisition

Councilors discussed whether to authorize Forner to make another offer for Black Lake real estate. The privately owned 1.78 acre lot is located near the lake’s trail and boat launch area.

The council originally authorized Forner to move forward on the purchase at its Feb. 11 meeting. The issue was brought up again at the council’s March 11 meeting, when the council approved Forner to make a counter offer for the land.

“Basically, the offer we made last time was turned down so we’re looking at the council on which direction to go,” Forner said.

Possible land improvements include making the lake’s main trail compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, expanding the park, and adding picnic tables.

“I think it’d be a really great loss to the community if we’re unable to move forward with purchasing the property,” Mathison said. Mathison, who teaches at Hilltop Middle School, said she often takes students to Black Lake.

The city owns most of the land adjacent to and surrounding the lake.

Task Force EMS appointees

The council appointed Lessnau and Ilwaco Fire Chief Tom Williams to act as representatives of the City of Ilwaco on the Task Force EMS Board. The board partners with MEDIX Ambulance Service.

Board members include Pacific County Fire District No. 2, Ilwaco, Long Beach and Washington state.

Williams and former councilor David Jensen were the city’s last representatives. The council had to appoint one councilor and either Williams or another representative.

Black Lake Fishing Derby

The 27th Annual Black Lake Fishing Derby will be held at Black Lake from 7 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 27. The derby is open to children ages 2 to 14.

Participants will get a free pancake breakfast, hot dog lunch, crafts and more. Those who register by April 19 will receive a free t-shirt.

Derby registration will last from 7 to 9:45 a.m. The final fish weigh-ins will be held at 10 a.m., followed by awards and prizes.

Registration is free online at The derby is hosted by the Ilwaco Parks & Recreation Commission.

Development fees

The council held a public hearing on an ordinance regarding development fees. The ordinance was passed at the council’s March 11 meeting but required a public hearing.

“The process of changing the municipal code is much more difficult than an ordinance. This is getting rid of a lot of friction,” said Planning Commission Chair Jon Chambreau. “There’s really no reason for development fees to be there, it’s just a historical artifact.

Other council news

High school parking: Ilwaco Fire Department and the Long Beach Police Department will work on painting curbs and parking spots at Ilwaco High School this fall, said Ilwaco Fire Chief Tom Wright.

Nextdoor: Councilor Kenneth Sprague suggested community members sign up for, which is a way for citizens to connect with each other online.

City gadgets: Ilwaco has a new PA system, which will be used for the first time at the fishing derby, Forner said.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 22. The meeting will include a public hearing on a proposed right-of-way vacation on parts of Third and Fourth Avenue, located between Main Street and Eagle Street.

Alyssa Evans is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or

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