Impending Columbia River Dike Breach Threatens Endangered Deer

Since March 2011 it’s been clear the Steamboat Slough Road Dike – the only thing holding the Columbia River back from decimating a significant population of endangered Columbian white-tailed deer – was falling apart. We don’t know yet whether the hole in the dike was caused by channel deepening, maintenance dredging, or the wave action from ships traversing the Columbia River shipping channel. But we do know you can’t fix a problem like that without money. The owners of the dike don’t have any.

Enter, finally, the Army Corps of Engineers bearing $4 million to build a fix only to get a chilly reception from the dike owners, Wahkiakum County. Although the County plan is to let the dike fall apart and destroy the refuge where the deer live, they rejected an alternative plan to build a new dike and save the refuge. While their concerns about recreational users are valid, they don’t have a plan to help them so those concerns are, frankly, irrelevant. And, what’s more important: preventing a species from extinction or helping people enjoy a beach? Oh, wait! They would prefer neither.

On February 1, NWEA sent a letter to the dike owners explaining their significant liability for “take” of the endangered deer pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. We hope this explanation helps the County Commissioners reverse their previous refusal to allow the fix when it comes up for a vote on February 5th. It’s time for Wahkiakum County to give its approval to the Corps’ plans to fix the problem and save the refuge for a species that’s been endangered for over 45 years.

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