This whole debacle about the dike could have been prevented with better communication between National Wildlife Refuge and the public. But I am beginning to understand that communication is not in their job description. Already some of the pioneers of this project are stepping back. The idea to piggyback these two projects, fish enhancement and dike removal, was probably well intended but this cadre of conservationists didnt consider the whole scope and ramifications of their project. They certainly forgot the part about ... by the people, for the people ..., and you know the rest.
It is true that removing the dike could bring the area back to its original salt-marsh state which might provide some habitat for a few migrating salmon each year, but so would the removal of the wildlife headquarters, the state highway and the town of Nahcotta, but that would not be the best approach; under the circumstances, neither is this. That dike was put in 50-plus years ago for the purpose of enhancing certain wildlife and providing recreation potential it still does. Some of us are adamantly opposed to this part of Alternative 2.
The study that was done to justify the removal of the dike was to prove the benefit of removal. I would like to see one done extolling the benefits of keeping the dike; there are many ancillary reasons for keeping it in place. The comment made about the cost of maintaining the dike being $30 million has to be out of context. The dike does not even have to be maintained it just has to be left in place. Any superficial deterioration could be corrected with a backhoe. This dike also has vast untapped potential for public wildlife observation and education that could not possibly be duplicated in any other form for the cost of a few thousand dollars a year to maintain it; why this has not been explored is a mystery to me. If any public money is spent to benefit salmon recovery we might consider controlling the avian predation, which is currently out of control. If we could find a solution to that problem we wouldnt need salmon recovery, but thats another subject.
As far as the amount of hunter participation for this refuge is concerned, Mr. Stenvall should know that one of the reasons we live in Pacific County is that we dont want to stand in line and take a number or reserve a blind for a day like they do in heavily populated areas is that so bad? We are fortunate to be able to harvest a few ducks and geese, deer and elk in an area abundant with wildlife and we dont want to lose that privilege.
As far as the mitigating proposals offered, I consider myself an authority in this area as I have farmed, hiked and hunted this bay for longer than probably anyone left at the headquarters and I am telling you that most of these mitigating proposals are flawed. For instance, launching a car-top boat into Willapa Bay to duck hunt is a disaster waiting to happen and allowing seven days a week hunting on an additional 3,000 acres is nothing. Without that dike, there is virtually no access to south Willapa Bay and the rest of the bay is already open seven days a week. However, aside from private land, there is very little access!
I cannot understand why a public entity would persist in pursuing a project as controversial as this when time and money could be spent in some other way that would be just as beneficial. Why cant Alternative 2 be modified ?
A final note: What were all those big fish I saw jumping behind the dike last fall? Maybe the fish ladder is working.