Potential land and timber acquisition

A 2020 drone photo shows part of Ilwaco’s Indian Creek reservoir, along with recently harvested timberland and the Columbia River estuary in the background.

OLYMPIA — Spring is one of the most anxious times of the year for local officials throughout Washington, as they wait to find out if critical or long sought after projects will receive the funds they need to move forward by the state Legislature.

A handful of projects on the Long Beach Peninsula received such funding in 2021, totaling at least $1.7 million out of a $6.3 billion capital construction budget that the Legislature approved in April — the largest capital budget in state history.

Bear Ridge Community Forest

The project that received the largest amount of funding from the state — $721,000 — is the city of Ilwaco’s Bear Ridge Community Forest, located near the Willapa Hills north of Chinook.

The project’s aim is to protect the city’s drinking water source, the Indian Creek Watershed, by purchasing the land and surrounding timber deeds — owned by Weyerhaeuser Company — and preserving the area as a community forest. Weyerhaeuser owns two timber deeds totaling 178 acres, while another 210 acres of watershed area outside of city management would also be purchased.

Ilwaco will put the state funds toward the acquisition of the property and timber deeds, according to city councilor Matt Lessnau, who has been spearheading the project for the city. The city is working on the sale with The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization specializing in land conservation, as well as forestry consultant Ben Hayes.

The city previously received a $600,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture last summer, as part of the USDA Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, that will also go toward the sale. Lessnau said the city is also working with the state Department of Ecology on a grant and loan for the project.

The city is also vying for more federal funds by submitting a Community Project Funding request through Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s office as part of the upcoming federal budget. Community Project Funding, more commonly known as “earmarks,” are making a return to Congress this session after being banned by members a decade ago. Lawmakers insist that new rules will ensure the earmark process is more transparent.

Navigation infrastructure

The capital budget also sets aside $634,000 for navigation infrastructure at the Ports of Ilwaco and Chinook. Port of Ilwaco Manager Guy Glenn Jr. said the state funds are specifically related to marina maintenance dredging activities at both of the ports. The Port of Ilwaco has managed the Port of Chinook under an interlocal agreement since 2016.

The project the funding is going toward can be broken up into two elements, Glenn Jr. said, the first being the development of an “in-water” dredge material disposal site for each of the ports. Currently, both of the ports manage dredge material on upland site that are at — or nearing — capacity. State funding was secured in 2017 for a combined dredging plan for the two ports, which was completed in 2019 and will be used moving forward in developing the disposal sites.

“With an alternative ‘in-water’ disposal site for each marina, dredge material can be responsibly managed for beneficial reuse in Baker Bay,” Glenn Jr. said in an email to the Observer. “Our marinas need to be dredged on an ongoing basis to support local jobs, commerce and recreation in the region. The investment in developing these alternative dredge material disposal sites has direct economic and social benefits to our local community and the region.”

The project’s second element includes marina maintenance dredging in priority areas at both ports, to support both commercial and recreational activities. The deeper draft areas for commercial fishing vessels, Glenn Jr. said, are typically the highest priority “to sustain the tonnage and off-ship value of seafood coming across our docks.”

“These commercial fishing related metrics are important when advocating for federal funding to maintain our entrance channels leading from the Columbia River into our marinas. The reliability of our entrance channels is important for both recreational and commercial activities at the ports, including access to our boatyard, recreational fishing and tourism at the coast,” Glenn Jr. said.

Ilwaco clinic renovation

Ocean Beach Hospital was the beneficiary of $309,000 in state funds, which will go toward the renovation of its Ilwaco clinic, according to CEO Larry Cohen.

OBH’s original funding request was for $2 million, Cohen said, so the $309,000 the hospital did receive will go toward a smaller renovation and refreshing of the clinic, as well as parking upgrades, than what was initially planned and break up the larger project into phases.

The rest of the project, which remains unfunded for now, includes an expansion of the Ilwaco clinic, which is about 30 years old “and is showing its age,” Cohen said in an email. The expansion would add exam rooms and offices, as well as other elements such as a walkway to link the clinic and the hospital.

OBH is opting to expand and renovate the existing clinic, Cohen said, because as long as the clinic does not change its address it is able to keep its Rural Health Clinic status, which he called “a very important thing.” Rural health clinics receive enhanced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, among other financial benefits.

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