“ … I don’t want the money, I want the dirt. It’s more valuable to me than money. I would build a critter pad for the floods … ”

Victor Khvoroff stands amongst wooden debris that floodwaters from the Cowlitz River has deposited onto his ranch.

Victor Khvoroff stands amongst wooden debris that floodwaters from the Cowlitz River has deposited onto his ranch.

Nothing along to the Cowlitz River is safe from the water’s corrosive tendencies, and few people know that as well as Victor Khvoroff.

Khvoroff’s land sits on what are called government lots, meaning that as the river moves, the boundaries of his property changes, unlike those of surveyed lots which are static no matter what a waterway may do.

“If the river moves the neighbors may gain land, or I will because the river moves toward me,” he said Monday morning.

A cow walks along the bank of the Cowlitz River between Packwood and Randle Sunday.

A cow walks along the bank of the Cowlitz River between Packwood and Randle Sunday.

The most dramatic example of the river’s movement comes at one particular bend of his roughly 460-acre cattle ranch. If you’ve ever driven down U.S. Highway 12, you’ve seen it, even if you don’t realize it.

The river has dug so far into the bank that it’s begun to threaten the highway between Packwood and Randle. Khvoroff said he tried for a number of years to get the Washington Department of Transportation to halt its advance while it was still hundreds of feet away. But they didn’t intervene until the river came just within feet of the highway, he said.

A frightened goose takes off from the shore of the Cowlitz River west of Packwood on Friday evening.

A frightened goose takes off from the shore of the Cowlitz River west of Packwood on Friday evening.

When The Chronicle first wrote about his plight last October, there was still about 4 feet of river bank between his fence and the water.

Now, parts of his fence are hanging over it.

Khvoroff resisted WSDOT’s plans to purchase from him just under 10 acres of land to fix about 2,000 feet of shoreline. Eventually, the issue escalated to a court hearing that gave the state authority to condemn the property using fee simple ownership. Before the state can take full possession of the land, the two parties will go to a compensation trial sometime between November and January 2016, unless the two settle beforehand.

Khvoroff’s biggest battle now is over the estimated 3,600 cubic yards of dirt that will be dug out of the area before the project is completed. The state, he says, is acting as if they already own the dirt and are making plans to take it elsewhere. He wants to keep it and use it around his property.

“Maybe at compensation trial I can make them pay for the dirt. But I don’t want the money, I want the dirt,” he said. “It’s more valuable to me than money. I would build a critter pad for the floods …. I have low spots on my land I could even out.”

By Dameon Pesanti / dpesanti@chronline.com