The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Sandra DeMent
Guest Editorial 

The fun of fencing in Klickitat County

 

August 30, 2017



It was only a fence. How hard could it be?

True, it had to run around three sides of a 40 acre parcel, and it had to cross an old gravel road and a creek twice, but I was sure I could get it done. My dog and I were tired of chasing cows and I was tired of the landscape damage and the cowpies underfoot. I couldn’t walk the creek without running into cranky cows that trampled the banks, munched wildflowers, and left their calling cards behind.

The Conservation District wanted to see the cattle fenced out of the creek too, and encouraged me to apply for a cost-sharing grant to help with the expense. It sounded good. All my neighbors had horror stories: the cow that climbed up on a Volkswagen in the belief it was a little hill, cows that climbed into a kiddie pool, cows that knocked over a 5-gallon bucket of syrup in a garage, and, of course, cows that ate roses, azaleas, plum trees, and so on. Worse than deer. I cranked out a heartfelt grant application laying out all the reasons why the cows should fenced out.

Timing was everything. The fence needed to be in place by early summer, when the cows were normally let out of their winter pasture. My parcel is in “open range,” meaning that the burden is on the property owner to fence cows out. Cows are otherwise free to go where they please

By December, my grant was approved, on condition that I agreed to install two in-ground cattle guards on the county road where it entered and left my parcel. My internet research showed there were new, inexpensive pour-in-place concrete cattle guards available, so I signed the paperwork for the grant. (“Inexpensive” turned out to be a relative term.)

Then I remembered that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA, an agency of the US Department of Energy) had an easement on the road through my property. Bonneville helpfully referred me to their website, where they had a 4-page application for me to complete--to install cattle guards on my own property?! OK, fine, I was dealing with an agency of the federal government, after all, and my contact was a nice person.

Before I submitted that application, I got a call from BPA reminding me of their new, improved, standards for cattle guards. Ouch! They wanted a 16 foot wide cattle guard, with heavy duty drainage systems, heavier than federal highways use! The problem was, my cattle guard had to fit across an old 12 foot wide gravel road on a steep slope, with no drainage ditches. I submitted my application in January, asking BPA to waive both of their new standards, and was told to expect a response in three or four months. Ouch!

Meanwhile, I was handed a copy of the National Resource Conservation Service’s Fence Code #382, a 13-page federal standard for how to build a proper barbed wire fence. Ouch! And, I couldn't begin until a state-mandated "cultural resource survey" was completed, to ensure there were no native burial grounds or important cultural sites along the fence line. Meanwhile, six feet of snow fell on us, and the survey couldn't be done until the snow melted.

By early March the snow began melting and I began flagging the boundaries of my parcel, to help the archeologists find the property line where fence posts would be installed. After poking dozens and dozens of little orange flags into snow and icy soil, I was dismayed that my lines weren't hitting the surveyor's monument. It was then I discovered that the skinny little stem on each flag was steel, affecting my compass reading. A few days later, I realized the zipper on my jacket was also steel. Double ouch! It took three or four long chilly afternoons to re-mark the property line.

To be continued...

 

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