USACE hits Umatilla County for more money

By on Thursday, January 4th, 2024 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

UMATILLA COUNTY – The Umatilla County Board of Commissioners has approved paying the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers an additional $32,500 for processing a request made by the county in February 2022 to install a pump to feed the Central Pipeline project water from the Columbia River at the existing river intake station.

Umatilla County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Shafer said the corps had cashed a check the county had paid USACE, and the assumption was that the request was being processed. That was not the case.

“Back in February of 2022, it was assigned to a staff member of the Corps of Engineers,” he said. “That person then retired, and it was given to another person at the Corps of Engineers who also resigned; and at that point, the application stopped moving.”

Shafer said the USACE did not indicate there was a problem, telling the county they could proceed as planned with a groundbreaking ceremony in November. Then, Oct. 5 dawned and the county learned there was a big problem.

“That’s when the wheels fell off,” Shafer said. “That’s when the corps said, ‘We’ve misplaced your application. We don’t know what happened to it. We’re going to have to start all over.’ As you can imagine, I was less than impressed.”

Even less impressive was the USACE’s discovery that the starting-over process would cost the county more money.

“The corps has incurred additional costs – I’m using air quotes right now, you can’t see them but I’m using them – for the application which has resulted in additional administrative fees for the easement,” Shafer said.

The commissioners approved paying the additional $32,500. It’s actually costing the county more than that since it has to pay the pipeline contractor to stay on standby while the process is completed. He did question the additional charges before the vote.

“They said regardless of these facts you still would have had to pay these costs whether it was back in February of 2022 or today,” he said.