Mount St. Helens

The crater of Mount St. Helens is shown from the summit of Mount St. Helens in this photograph taken by Chronicle reporter Jordan Nailon, who summited the mountain last year.

The Cowlitz County commissioners are urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fund Mount St. Helens sediment management, as the area goes into another winter without updated flood risk information.

"We feel this issue desperately needs your attention and that further delay in prioritizing funding for sediment monitoring is a dangerous oversight," the commissioners said in a letter approved Tuesday to corps officials in Washington, D.C.

The monitoring includes a survey to assess the Cowlitz River flood risk, which hasn't been done for four years. The last data was collected in 2015, before one of the highest river crests recorded on the lower Cowlitz River, according to the letter.

"Locally, we can only guess based on visual observation that this historical high water event, and the events following, have loaded the river bed with sediment and significantly diminished our flood protection levels," accoding to the letter.

The corps is mandated by federal law to maintain flood protection levels along the lower Cowlitz River. Neither the Congress nor the Trump administration paid for the survey this year, despite the county and federal officials pressing for urgent action.

In late July, the county, Port of Longview, City of Castle Rock, and the Longview, Kelso and Lexington diking districts agreed to pay the Portland Corps $110,000 to complete the survey. The survey is expected this month, however, another winter will pass before the flood protection levels are updated in February or March.

Amy Holmes, Portland Corps project manager, said the survey is just one piece of the sediment management plan. The district will continue to include the plan in its budget each year and will work to reallocate funding when possible to pay for the project, she said.

The sediment problem dates to the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, which dumped about 3 billion tons of erodible debris in the upper reaches of the Toutle Valley.

In other business the commissioners:

--Acted to claim a portion of state sales tax revenue for affordable housing programs.

--Decreased the Building and Planning permit fee for wrecking yards from about $12,500 to $2,500. Community Services Director Elaine Placido said the change was driven by a citizen trying to get the permit for a small-scale operation, but the previous cost of the permit was prohibitive.

--Approved a three-year purchasing agreement with Mythics for PeopleSoft licensing and maintenance software for $239,400.

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