Satsop Project: Mired in Political Favors
The Satsop Project has a long history. It started with former Democrat County Commissioner Terry Willis in 2012. Willis was also a board member of the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority where project ideas begin.
What exactly is the Flood Authority?
Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority
The Flood Authority was created in 2008 as a result of the devastating December 2007 flood event in Western Washington. The Flood Authority's charge was to find ways to mitigate flooding and damage along the Chehalis River Basin. The organization was established through an Interlocal Agreement between Grays Harbor County, Lewis County, Thurston County, the City of Centralia, Chehalis, Aberdeen, Montesano, the town of Pe Ell and the Chehalis Confederated Tribes.
Conflict of Interest
The exact reason the Satsop Project started may be a mystery. The reason likely does not exist in some public government email accessible through a public records requests (I have yet to find it). That said, here is what we know. The project started some time in or before 2012 under former Commissioner Terry Willis. The project was brought through the Flood Authority and sponsored as a county project through the Board of County Commissioners. One of the main beneficiaries of this very expensive taxpayer funded project is, Terry Willis. Normally, when a politician directly benefits from a project at taxpayers expense, they should be nowhere near any part of the project. It stinks, and unfortunately, this is what we have come to expect from politicians in America today. In 2013, I was elected to fill Terry's seat as County Commissioner and as a board member on the Flood Authority. During my first year, I obtained a report regarding the Satsop Project that would no doubt prove who would benefit from the project. The 23 page report mentions former Commissioner Willis nine (9) times.
It also detailed out the potential solutions.
The Willis property was one of the actionable items on the Project Alternative Matrix. Which included the purchase of her land and/or relocation of her house. It also included a design and install bank erosion countermeasures to protect the home from current and future erosion threats. Those items were being looked at as potential solutions.
A philosophical question every citizen should ask themself is, when should taxpayers pay for private land owners?
On July 8th, 2013 - myself, Commissioner Frank Gordon and County Engineer Russ Essess signed a county document removing the county's sponsorship of the Satsop project.
County Commissioner Vickie Raines
Fast forward to 2015, in comes County Commissioner Vickie Raines, the chair of the Flood Authority, representing the county. Commissioner Raines time with me on the Commission included her pursuing good, bad and mostly ugly taxpayer funded projects. Projects that even some members of the Flood Authority thought were fruitless. For example, the $5 million dollar plus Wishkah Wall that was built to mitigate water over the roadway "2 and 3 times per year."
One might ask, how does a $5 million dollar flood wall that prevents water over the roadway only a few times a year even get funded?
One reason, a very passionate and persistent Democratic activist that directly benefits from such a project and a handful of tax and spend politicians. The Democrat activist lives along the Wishkah River and has benefited substantially from the project, many even referred to the project by his last name.
Another reason, Representative Steve Tharinger, chair of the powerful House Capital Budget Committee threatened to defund the Flood Authority and Vickie's hometown (Cosmopolis) $3.6 million dollar Mill Creek Dam Project if the Wishkah Project did not move forward.
I personally heard this threat with my own ears and was informed by the Flood Authority's facilitator that it would happen. I wasn't interested or swayed by the "Honorable" Representative of the 24th Legislative District.
Satsop Project Revived At some point, with Commissioner Raines as chair of the Flood Authority, the Satsop Project was given a second life. The project was expensive and the engineering provided and/or reviewed by three (3) different engineers, showed it was a high risk endeavor.
The Satsop Project Today I am sure that folks at the county and the Flood Authority are biting their nails at the mess that has been created. In 2019, to my dismay, the Satsop Project was a go. I asked on the record at a Commissioner meeting, who is going to pay for damages when the river turns toward a neighboring property owner? The County? The Flood Authority? Two property owners are losing valuable farmland at a fast rate as a result of the work done along the Satsop River.
Commissioner Raines was able to contact the Grays Harbor County Assessor's Office and get the property owners $80 dollars back on their property tax.
Commissioner Raines opening statement is an admission that the property owners lost a substantial amount of land. I hope the property owners get compensated for this mess, more than the $80 of tax they paid.
Will politicians be held accountable?