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Skipanon Water Control District's board says it's tired, no longer needed

Gail Galen
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, October 3, 2019

The governing board of Skipanon Water Control District wants to disband, saying the current board has served multiple terms with no one else stepping up to the plate.

“We’re just exhausted for being under attack all the time,” said Gail Galen, the district’s treasurer. “Now that we’ve made this very difficult decision, I think we’ve all realized how fatigued we all are.”

Down to four board members -- and no candidates for the last vacancy in this year’s special districts election – the group voted at its last meeting to disband. Board President Tessa Scheller spoke before the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners asking for help and agreement.

The county would become owner of the Cullaby Lake Outlet Structure, which the agency remodeled in 2007 for safety reasons and to reduce flooding. The city of Warrenton would likely become owner of the Eighth Street Dam, an earthen structure beneath a bridge that has been the subject of political and legal battles in the last few years.

Warrenton city commissioners discussed the potential ownership in a closed-door session Tuesday night. While there was no public announcement after the session, city leaders have expressed no enthusiasm about adding the structure to its assets list.

“It is beyond me why it is a big story,” Galen said of the dam.

The district has insisted it’s obsolete, does nothing to prevent flooding and the removal of its tide gates improved fish passage. Several years ago, the district won a grant to replace the dam with a bridge, but the city wouldn’t sign off on the project.

Some city leaders and residents have contended removal of the tide gates poses a flood risk and the city currently is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a study to determine potential risks, if any.

“The district has watched as Warrenton develops commercially. As a water district, we have no control over development, yet have to account for what that does – the impermeable surfaces -- to water issues,” Galen said. “It’s a very precarious position to be in, having no control over the causes of flooding.”

A water control structure in Clatsop Plains was decommissioned in 2012, leaving the Cullaby Lake outlet the only structure the district still maintains.

Over the years, Galen has prepared the financial documents for the county, Secretary of State and other entities. Tax money garnered by the district of late has gone almost exclusively to legal fees, legal advertising and insurance.

Money for large projects flowing into a separate reserve account, which contains just under $50,000, is no longer needed, she said.

“It just hit me. We’re not doing anything constructive,” she said. “All we’re doing is defending our right to exist and that’s not a legitimate reason to exist.”

Skipanon Water Control District’s board will discuss the dissolution next at its meeting at noon Monday, Sept. 30, at the Pacific Grange, Highway 101 at Cullaby Lake Road.

Eighth Street Dam

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