Senate’s failure to pass a capital budget leaves local projects hanging

Funds for low-income housing, flood relief, school construction and more in question

A number of major projects in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties are hung up because the funding for them is part of the state capital budget — which, after a full legislative session and three special sessions, has yet to be passed.

“Certainly the Westport dredging is a big one, but given that there is $70 million in spending for school construction it is hard to say what is more important,” said Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview). “Cosmopolis school cannot go out to bid on their remodel as they do not know when they will get their SCAP money from the state.”

SCAP is the School Construction Assistance Program, which provides funding assistance to school districts that are planning major new construction or improvement projects.

There is a strong expectation that the capital budget will be approved this summer, but it’s not clear when. It’s been stalled over a fight in the Senate involving a fix that Republicans want to get around a state Supreme Court decision involving water rights.

Takko says some of the larger-ticket items are $8 million for a Naselle Hatchery renovation and $3 million in renovations at Twin Harbors and Cape Disappointment state parks. While those large projects get a lot of attention, Takko said some communities are waiting on amounts far less that can have just as great an impact.

“Although it is only $30,000, North Beach Water cannot pay the contractor for a job as the Department of Commerce has told them they cannot forward the state money to them until the budget passes,” he said. “So even though the money is not the millions that some are waiting for, it has a big impact.” This project on the Long Beach Peninsula would install a new well field to help the region with some of the water quality issues they’ve had in recent years.

The mayors of both Aberdeen and Hoquiam agree the restoration of Fry Creek and the construction of the North Shore Levee are two of the most important projects either city has faced in many years. Increased flooding in recent years has created headaches for homeowners and city public works departments, and hundreds of residents are required to carry federal flood insurance, which is expensive, and properties within the existing floodplain have very low resale value.

Fry Creek restoration will include a number of improvements that would help mitigate flood risks, including removing culverts, creating a stormwater holding pond, and installing a new tide gate and pump at the mouth of the creek. These measures would allow for increased flood control and help return the creek to a more natural state.

The capital budget has $315,000 in it for the restoration and flood reduction design — which is ongoing as public comment is taken and adjustments to the plan are made — and another $1,915,000 for the implementation of the plan.

The North Shore Levee’s planning and design has been funded by a grant from the Chehalis Basin Flood Authority. As FEMA continues to look over the draft plan sent to them last month, there is just under $30 million in state and federal funds for construction of local priority flood protection projects in the current proposed capital budget.

There is $2.5 million in the latest budget draft for the Westport Marina project, which could go toward digging the marina out to depths of 15 to 17 feet. According to Port of Grays Harbor Public Affairs Manager Kayla Dunlap, the marina has not been fully dredged since 1980. Marina Business Manager Molly Bold said she has applied for the permits needed to perform the dredging, but fixing a start date for the project can’t be done until the funds are released.

There is also more than $900,000 in the budget to make major improvements to the marina’s public boat launch. The current gravel lot would be paved, the portable toilets replaced with restrooms, and a fish cleaning station installed.

As the cities of Hoquiam and Aberdeen look for solutions to the low-income housing shortage in the region, enlisting the help of the Seattle-based Low Income Housing Institute to find suitable locations and funding, $6 million is listed in the current capital budget for use in providing grants for “high quality low-income housing that will quickly move people from homelessness into secure housing.”

Dawn Thomas, legislative assistant to Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen), provided this list of projects in the area that are awaiting capital budget approval:

• Construction of a “compact roundabout” — smaller version of your typical roundabout — at the intersection of State Route 12 and State Route 107 in Montesano, $550,000.

• State Route 105 bridge replacements at Smith Creek, North River and the Middle Nemah, more than $1 million.

• Development of a safe, multi-use trail crossing on the Willapa Hills Trail at State Route 106, $401,000.

• Replacement of noncompliant comfort stations in Ocean City, $1,526,000.

• Aberdeen landslide repair, $373,000.

• Development of the Gateway Center in Aberdeen, $1,750,000.

• Replacement of the Hoquiam Coastal Harvest roof, $206,000.

• East Grays Harbor Fiber Project, which would spread fiber optics through Elma, the Satsop School District and all of east county, $436,000.

• Hoquiam Library preservation, $250,000.

• Lake Sylvia State Park Legacy Pavilion, $696,000. Friends of Schaefer and Lake Sylvia State Parks has pledged $200,000 of private investments into the project, which would construct a pavilion that could hold 80 people, complete with a fireplace, kitchen area and moveable walls that can be placed so the park could attract winter visitors.

• Pacific County historic county courthouse grants program, $364,000.