Cosmopolis talks about Mill Creek Dam

By Amber Bryan

The Cosmopolis City Council meeting was held at a temporary venue Wednesday evening due to the presence of special guest Grays Harbor County Commissioner Frank Gordon. Citizens of Cosmopolis gathered in the hall of the Fire Department to hear Commissioner Gordon present his opinion concerning the Mill Creek Dam Replacement Project.

The project, which was approved by the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority, aims to replace the old dam that was breached by floodwaters in November of 2008. The new dam would include safe passage for fish and a pedestrian footbridge.

Commissioner Gordon presented an alternative project idea that would involve repairing three culverts, insisting that replacing the dam would not be as effective or cost efficient as maintaining culverts already in existence. He provided those in attendance with a copy of his own personal study and proposal. Part of his presentation included offering to help come up with funds specifically for culvert repair. Commissioner Gordon plans to return to Cosmopolis in two weeks to address future questions.

First to respond was former mayor of Cosmopolis, Vickie Raines, who currently serves as the Grays Harbor County Commissioner for District 3. She spoke as a concerned citizen who supports moving forward with the Mill Creek Dam project, and suggested that Commissioner Gordon's counter proposal was politically motivated and not done with the interest of serving and protecting the people of Cosmopolis. Her words were echoed by other citizens who all voiced support of the Mill Creek Dam project.

Commissioner Gordon's proposal to repair culverts was not rejected outright, and it was acknowledged that repairing the culverts was part of the city's plan as soon as funding permitted. Police Chief Casey Stratton was accepting of Commissioner Gordon's offer to find funds to repair the culverts, but kept with the prevailing attitude that the first priority of Cosmopolis was to go ahead with the approved Mill Creek Dam project.

A number of those who spoke, including Public Works Director Darrin Raines, conceded even if the new dam was instituted as planned it would not be able to hold back all flooding in the event of extreme conditions.

In conjunction with this statement, it was claimed if all the culverts were completely operational, not just the three included in Commissioner Gordon's proposal, they would also be inadequate in completely averting disaster in the event of severe rains and massive flooding.

Mayor Frank Chestnut was last to comment, citing that if the new plans for the Mill Creek Dam had been in place during the 2008 flooding that "not everything would have been completely prevented, but it would have been drastically mitigated." His response embodied the public comments and the thoughts of the rest of the city council.

"Why is it that when it floods it is always on garbage day," inserted Mayor Chestnut. He admitted to frustration due to the number of times the Mill Creek Dam project had been stalled.

"This report is nothing but political retribution," claimed Mayor Chestnut.

"Where were these concerns three years ago? They didn't exist until Mrs. Raines announced her candidacy."

A brief recess was held after Commissioner Gordon's presentation and public comments. Once the meeting resumed the council approved the purchase of a new police vehicle and authorized the Mayor to sign a jail agreement with the city of Hoquiam.