In reading Jim Deanes letter last week in the Observer, I agree with everything he wrote! I, too, would vote for Option 1.
The idea of the Willapa Wildlife Refuge taking the dike out east of the Reikkola pastureland (several hundred acres) and flooding the area to form a saltwater marsh is, to me, incomprehensible. There have been dikes in that area for 90 to 100 years. Im told a study shows that to bring the dikes up to federal standards would cost $23 million. Thats a ridiculous figure for this dike! I recently visited the proposed dike removal area. The dike is just fine as it is. Were not protecting the city of New Orleans here! Why not continue spending $5,000 to $10,000 a year, instead, as they have for the past number of years? We cranberry farmers have miles of dikes which require yearly maintenance. We haul tons of berries on these dikes at harvest and run equipment on them throughout the year.
Removing the dike changes the biological diversity of the area by destroying the freshwater marshes used by ducks. The two fish ladders would also be removed. I understand that Ducks Unlimited shared in the original design and cost of the fish ladders. If the dike was removed, one to two miles of county road would have to be raised about five feet at the end of 67th Place to allow access to the bio-solid treatment area and the Wildlife Refuge buildings and equipment storage.
Cranberry growers on the Peninsula have problems with elk, deer and geese. Elk are our biggest concern as they break off sprinklers, poke holes in our bogs with their hooves, break through our fences, and spread droppings for which we have zero tolerance. The Wildlife Refuge already cut down on elk pastureland when they purchased and changed the 160-acre Shier farm east of Sandridge and Pioneer roads. As pastureland is reduced, it puts more pressure on the elk to head for the cranberry farms. Our most vulnerable and heavily used bogs this winter were the 32 acres off 67th near the garbage transfer station. We have built 8-foot high fences to protect the bogs, but we would have to build many more once elk pressure increases.
I am not a hunter, but I know that managed hunts are important. I like seeing the elk on refuge areas, not on the cranberry bogs!
Charlie Stenvall, manager of the refuge, is a good man. Ive worked with him on spartina as a member of the Pacific County Weed Board. He and his crews, along with other agencies, did an incredible job eradicating spartina, which reclaimed 20,000 acres of salt marsh in the bay for shorebirds. Now we need to convince Charlie and his bosses that the elk, geese and ducks need their consideration as well. Dont take away their refuge! Keep pressure off the cranberry farms! Farmers are a threatened species, too!