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Anglers push for better Dibblee Point access

by: Arwen Ungar FISH ON — Anglers fish for steelhead and salmon at Dibblee Beach near Rainier. Some fishermen are pushing for improved access to the popular fishing spot.

On any given day at Dibblee Point near Rainier, fisherman line the side of the deeply rutted, unimproved access route hoping to catch a steelhead or a salmon.

The 110-acre site, which has never been designated as a recreational area, is jointly owned by the state of Oregon and Columbia County and is operated as a spot for depositing dredge spoils, which can sometimes inhibit beach access.

Glen Crinklaw, Columbia County's assistant public works director, said area fishermen are now working with the county to ensure accessibility even during times of dredging, which occurs throughout the year.

'That's the primary concern of this group of anglers,' Crinklaw said. 'The accessibility of the river has largely been diminished in the past years.'

But whether or not anything can be done to improve access is the question, and at this time organizers who want to push access improvement forward seem cautious about publicizing that effort.

Nancy Pustis, the western region manager for the Oregon Department of State Lands Land Management Division, said the primary use of the site, from the state's perspective, is for depositing dredge spoils.

'We do acknowledge that there are recreational uses,' Pustis said. 'We'd like to see both happen at the same time. We'd like to facilitate that.'

But Pustis reiterated that dredging in the area, and the funding derived from it, is substantial enough to take precedence.

She said she was unaware of any proposed changes to improve access to the site.

Fishermen at Dibblee Point - many have been fishing at the site for more than 20 years - largely take issue with the fact that access is sometimes prohibited during fishing season and access to the area and facilities are of poor quality.

Jim Housley, a local area fisherman, said Dibblee Point is one of the few spots where fishermen can still take their families and where the elderly can access the beach with just a few steps from their cars - assuming their cars can reach the sandy beach without being halted by inaccessible terrain.

He also said he wished the dredge schedule could be coordinated so that it wouldn't coincide with fishing season, and that the road could be better maintained during recreation-heavy months.

'The road could be improved a lot, it's really rough,' said Housley. 'I wish they could keep the road more graded.'

But Pustis said it's unlikely any improvements will be made to the access route.

'It isn't really a roadway from our perspective, it's just an access site,' Pustis said. 'We're not funded for any type of improvements.'