In his letter to the editor titled "Fixing Pacific Way culvert hung up in WSDOT red tape," Mr. Waltemate suggests that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is purposely prohibiting the opening of the Pacific Way culvert across SR 103.
The culvert was never opened, only built partially several years ago, due to minor flooding over part of the southbound lane on SR 103. From a safety standpoint, the culvert would divert redirect water off the roadway, additionally decreasing road maintenance costs. Unfortunately, the State was prohibited from opening the culvert after initial threats of litigation from downstream property owner asking to cover damages for any potential harm to his oyster crop as a result of possible polluted run-off.
As for the question regarding pollutants to oysters, I don't have the answer, as WSDOT has not made that assertion.
Recently, Pacific County Board of Commissioners requested that WSDOT open the culvert. Our preference is to do just that - we want to error on the side of safety, but in order to be a good steward of the taxpayer dollar, we first requested a written document stating that before we proceed with opening the culvert, the county and property owners indemnify WSDOT from any previously asserted liabilities. Sadly, to date we have not received a reply to our request and thus cannot proceed.
Taxpayer dollars are precious and WSDOT aims to use these funds in the most effective and efficient manner - on safety improvements and congestion relief statewide. It would be an injustice to the taxpaying citizens of Washington state to open the culvert without protection from possible expensive litigation.
I hope I have cleared up Mr. Waltemate's questions and concerns regarding the proverbial "WSDOT red tape." As is always the case, WSDOT encourages open dialog with the associated agencies and the public and we hope to do just that.
Richard T. Sjolander
Regional Operations Manager